The International Olympic Committee selected Mexico City as the site of the 1968 Games after due consideration of the relevant facts, including the city's 7,800-foot altitude. That should have been that. But objections to the thin air of Mexico City are being made with increasing vigor.
Some of the objections have merit. It is agreed that extended training at high altitudes apparently will acclimatize athletes for the Games, but the point is made that some nations cannot afford such training. It is also argued that rich nations, whose teams will spend several months at high-level camps, will be making professionals of their amateurs. Against that is the fact that the fine line between amateur and pro has become so blurred (e.g., by the appearance of the state-trained athlete) that the old concept of amateurism is already all but dead.
In one of the current protests 26 noted British athletes, all Olympic medalists, turned to the London Times as a forum, urging the IOC to move Mexico City's endurance events to lower altitudes. And Roger Bannister, the first four-minute miler, asserted, "This decision to hold the Olympics at Mexico City is likely to result in a drastic and deplorable change in training methods. Opportunities to acclimatize will be left to the differing wealth of the countries and to the ingenuity, even ruthlessness, of their coaches."
These arguments are academic. The effect of Mexico City's altitude will not be known in certainty until the Games are held and the world sees who won what and why. Until then, we had best get on with getting ready.
It would have been difficult for Bill Russell to turn down the job as coach of the Celtics in the light of his past protests about an alleged quota for Negroes in pro basketball and his general militancy in behalf of equal opportunities for Negroes. And it is just as difficult to applaud the appointment at this time, despite the almost universal praise for this removal of one more repugnant barrier to the Negro's participation in sport.
The truth is that no man can demonstrate his full ability as either player or coach if required to do both at the same time. This is true of nearly all sports, and especially of basketball, where the action is continuous. Russell should have been invited to become coach when he was ready to quit playing.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
Alabama's Phil Mulkey, who is a well-preserved 34, may yet become the Sarah Bernhardt of track and field. When he won the decathlon last year for the seventh time, he called it a farewell performance and vowed to retire from the Kansas Relays. "But you know how it is," Mulkey explained last week when the curtain went up in Lawrence. "With the arrival of spring, your bones feel like they're not so stiff."