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Part of a nation's prestige in the cold war is won in the Olympic Games. In this quadrennial conflict the U.S. has skidded steadily for 16 years. The record is there for all the world to see—and to note as proof of a decline in our once-acknowledged national energy.
It doesn't have to be that way.
A series of well-organized and well-financed programs—matching or bettering those of other countries—can restore the bright and gleaming Golden Age of Sports which gave us an inner glow of pride and enhanced the picture abroad of a young America bursting with vitality.
Americans never have regarded amateur athletics consciously as part of our national effort, but other countries do. Many will argue that a nation's energy is not accurately measured by Olympic status, that a better measurement would be the physical condition of all the populace—not just the stars. But in this day of international stalemates nations use the scoreboard of sports as a visible measuring stick to prove their superiority over the "soft and decadent" democratic way of life. It is thus in our national interest that we regain our Olympic superiority—that we once again give the world visible proof of our inner strength and vitality.
If there is any doubt about our decline in sports, let us examine the record:
?In Melbourne in 1956 we were knocked from the No. 1 position as Soviet athletes won 98 medals to our 74.
?The 1960 games in Rome saw the deterioration continue, with Russian athletes winning 103 medals to our 73.
Of course, the Olympic Games are dedicated traditionally to the efforts of individuals. No nation officially "wins" the Olympics, but inevitably a country's showing is totaled unofficially and comparisons are made of those totals. So, though a nation's standing in international athletics is not the chief factor in its prestige, it does affect the reputation of its society and culture. During a military or nuclear stalemate such as the world is now experiencing athletics can become an increasingly important factor in international relations.