For the medal-heavy Americans the last week was an anticlimax, made even less exciting by persisting rain and fog that took the glow from Tokyo and made it flat by day and inconvenient by night. They had scored heavily in swimming the week before and by Monday had delivered the killing blows in track and field. By then the Russians could bury any revolutionary plans they might have had for a big breakthrough in the sport that is really what the Olympics is all about, track and field. The Americans won 12 gold medals (plus two more in women's events) to Russia's two (plus three in women's). On Wednesday the two American sprint champions—Bob Hayes and Henry Carr—provided a striking climax, running anchor legs in the two relays. First Hayes, winner of the gold at 100 meters and reportedly nine suits ahead in his wardrobe after a tailor-to-tailor dash around Tokyo with his mother, swept from fifth place to a devastating three-yard victory and a team world record in the 400-meter relay. He was unofficially clocked in 8.6 seconds for his running-start 100-meter leg and was easily the most exciting American trackman, running with a muscular determination that had the crowds roaring, in heats as well as finals. Carr, gold medalist at 200 meters, was almost as impressive. Coming off a blistering start in the last heat of the 1,600 meters, he let his rivals draw close to him, then pulled easily away to win by six yards in another world-record race.
"Hank could run 400 meters in 44 flat," said an amazed Mike Larrabee, the winner of the gold in that event and second man on the 1,600-meter relay team. "Trouble is he's lazy."
"Why should I run 400 meters?" Carr demanded. "I'm the world's best at 200. I'm not greedy."
By Friday someone had identified the hot horn in the stands that had been applying the finishing kick to the truncated Japanese version of The Star-Spangled Banner played after each American victory. Gallantly picking up on the downbeat side of "so gal-lant-ly streaming" with his solo trumpet was Uan Rasey, the lead horn for the M-G-M studio orchestra and a globe-trotting track nut. To blow his horn, Rasey stationed himself just below the torch at National Stadium, presumably to get maximum range for "And the rockets' red glare...." He was later joined by Bob Crosby and the Bobcats, who were appearing at a Tokyo nightclub and were equally concerned that Francis Scott Key was not being fully and internationally appreciated.
By Friday night the only thing left to be determined as far as the Americans were concerned was the validity of the claim of the Russian basketball coach, Aleksandr Gomelski, that "there will be a surprise for everyone" in the finals. "We are fed up with second," said Gomelski. While he never flat-out predicted a victory, this was interpreted to mean that the end of American dominance in the sport (every Olympic championship since basketball became part of the Games in 1936 and 46 victories in a row, including four straight over the Russians) might well be at hand and could be seen, provided you could latch on to a ticket for the final.
This was not so easy. The Japanese are not big on basketball and had built only a 4,000-seat bandbox for the competition—architecturally beautiful, even breathtaking—but a bandbox nevertheless. By game time, on a bleak, rainy night, black market tickets for the game were going for as much as $125, and there were few willing to part with them at that price. Paul Drayton, the fine U.S. sprinter who was second to Carr in the 200, found himself among the deprived, so he got in on Walt Hazzard's pass, laughing at his cleverness. "The Japanese think all us Negroes look alike," he grinned.
Drayton had spent the early afternoon with Hazzard, the marvelous playmaker guard from UCLA's national championship team. "Man, they're really psyched up. I showed Walt my gold medal [won as a member of America's victorious 400-meter relay team] and he drooled. 'I'm getting me one tonight,' he said."
Hazzard alone was a good enough reason for optimism, but it had been anticipated beforehand and evident in the tournament that this was not the power team the Americans fielded in 1960, when they averaged 101.9 points a game and walloped the Russians 81-57, with the formidable likes of Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Jerry West. This team, possibly as strong as the 1960 team underneath, lacked outside shooting. One who could have helped, Jeff Mullins of Duke, had a game knee, and Coach Hank Iba of Oklahoma State had to maneuver. Accordingly, Iba worked the team hard, as much as 80 hours in one two-week stretch. He himself was seldom out of the Olympic Village. The team took to Iba and his methods. "You can't imagine the things I've learned under that man." said Hazzard.
"We're not about to be the first to lose to the Russians," said Larry Brown, the 5-foot 10-inch North Carolina alumnus who had played with the Goodyear Wing-foots. Brown alternated as playmaker with Hazzard.
Lou Rossini of NYU, who coached the Puerto Rican basketball team in the Olympics, compared the Soviet and American teams and was not overly optimistic about U.S. chances. "The Russians have speed and good size." he said, "and I don't think the U.S. can win if it gets behind."