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November 04, 1963
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November 04, 1963


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The selection of Mexico City as the site of the 1968 Olympic Games—a candidacy that beat out Detroit—came as the Mexican capital was entertaining the 33rd Congreso Mundial of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) with bullfights, auto racing and horse racing. There were 2,500 agents in town, and every one of them asked the same question: How will altitude (7,400 feet of it) affect the performance of Olympic athletes?

In a city where the big nightclubs provide oxygen tanks for exhausted twisters, and in which hangovers seem endless, this is a question worth asking. The answer is that the effect will be more than somewhat but not necessarily drastic. Broad jumpers and hop-step-and-jumpers will sail farther through the thin air. The breathlessness of the long distance runner will be more than apparent. Even sprinters, who don't breathe much over 100 meters and shorter distances, will notice the lack of oxygen. All athletes will be advised to inhale oxygen before and after competition.

These are prognostications based on what happened in the 1955 Pan American Games, when not a few competitors from 22 nations collapsed and were hauled off on stretchers after their events. But records, seven of them, were set nonetheless. Thus Lou Jones of New Rochelle, N.Y. fell unconscious on the cinders at the end of the 400-meter race, quite unaware that he had broken the world record with a time of 45.4 seconds.

Acclimatization is possible for some individuals, but not all, according to Peter V. Karpovich, M.D. in his Physiology of Muscular Activity. And athletes from higher altitudes like Bolivia's La Paz (11,916 feet) may find their times improved in such events as the 10,000-meter run, if one may judge by experiments conducted in 1947, when a team was taken from La Paz to sea level at Arica, Chile. In the heavier air, however, performances in jumping and putting the shot worsened.

One of the travel representatives, Peter Prag of Norway, declared that, based on his own experience with lightheadedness and shortness of breath, he would advise Norwegian coaches that "things are going to be very tough in Mexico." Reminded that he had been wined and dined at the convention, whereas "athletes don't drink," Mr. Prag responded, "You don't know Norwegian athletes."

Let coaches beware—in Mexico in 1968 their motto might well be: schnapps, schmapps.


The odds against a perfect bridge hand (everybody gets 13 of a suit), are, roughly, 2,235,197,406,895,366,368,301,559,999 to 1. There are those who will assure you that it is a most unlikely combination. But last spring four ladies from Kankakee, Ill. each picked up 13 cards of one suit (SI, April 15), causing a sensation in the bridge world. Since then, everywhere ladies with time on their hands have been off and dealing. Directly after the Kankakee cause c�l�bre came the Greybull, Wyo. astonishment. Four ladies, each with a 13-card flush. And then, after brief summer doldrums, four ladies in Evansville, Ind. managed to come up with the perfect hand. News of this must have swept on to La Crosse, Wis. for, shortly thereafter, a determined female foursome there hit the jackpot on its third try.

On we go, this time to Jacksonville, Fla., where just last week the now not-so-odd oddity came up again at a session of The Tuesday Bridge Club That Meets On Thursday Morning. Same perfect hand and, once again, ladies all.

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