SI Vault
Bob Ottum
October 30, 1967
When the pre-Olympians came to town, the leisurely pace quickened into a swing. But it was not the projects left undone that set hearts to pounding. It was gymnastics and track and all those girls, girls, girls
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October 30, 1967

Bully Buildup In Old Mexico

When the pre-Olympians came to town, the leisurely pace quickened into a swing. But it was not the projects left undone that set hearts to pounding. It was gymnastics and track and all those girls, girls, girls

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Mexico is spending 500 million pesos getting dressed for the big show, laying in superhighways to all the tracks, fields, stadiums and one big ditch where they row boats. The town is digging a subway and already setting up practice traffic snarls all along the route to the sites.

Everybody tells everybody else that the whole thing will be ready when the Olympic torch arrives from Greece next October 11 at Teotihuacán, where there is going to be a lot of singing and dancing among the pyramids. Still, the pace of construction had not seemed to pick up any until last week when all those athletes began jogging around town in sweat suits. Suddenly there was this undercurrent of panic, which translated roughly into, "My God. The Olympics. Hurry up, you guys."

When track and field events began in the University City Stadium (soon to be called the Olympic Stadium) crews were called to work around the clock pouring those especially designed cement seats that are going to cause a worldwide wave of mysterious low back pains next year—and the pace of the whole town picked up a new swing.

In a way, the girls did it all. The one ringing truth about the Mexican pre-Olympic mood is that the sight of a lovely girl can cause a three-block traffic accident along the Paseo de la Reforma—and the sight of stunning girls in track minipants can pack more men into one stadium than anybody would believe possible.

This is not an exclusively Mexican attitude, but blondes do have more fun in Mexico City. And any man of any nationality who wouldn't go miles out of his way to see England's Mary Rand or America's Charlotte Cooke sailing along a track with everything moving at once—or the girl gymnasts in their spray-on leotards—would be so far out of his mind he would go and watch the weight lifters. There, the only spectators in the stands are members of the band and the police, and they're idly cleaning their rifles.

"It does make one a bit uncomfortable at first," said La Rand. "I mean, all those thousands of black eyes sort of boring into you from the stands. But one gets used to that sort of thing after a while and one just concentrates on the event."

Mary Rand may be the only girl athlete in the whole world who wears blue eyelashes—let's hear it out there for blue eyelashes, track fans—and one Mexican sportswriter, describing it all, almost choked. "She is a beautiful blonde," he wrote in El Sol de México, "whose eyes are as blue as the sky." The next sentence suffered a bit in translation: "She is a complete athlete and demonstrates it from the moment she takes off her pants. One can see her beautiful figure dressed in white. Many eyes follow her every move."

At the stadium the crowd fell to chanting, "We love you, Mary," and when she won the 80-meter hurdles, winging along on those long, tawny legs, it all got a little emotional.

Charlotte Cooke, who is blonde, 19 and a social worker in Washington, won the 400 meters managing to look just as sexy—which is not exactly the easiest trick in the world. "It is up to girl athletes," she said, "to look as feminine on the track as off."

Far off the track, over at the Auditorio Nacional, the girl gymnasts drove the boys right up the wall. This is a real tribute to spectating because the Auditorio Nacional is a huge, shadowy barn with steeply rising seats that vanish back up into a gray storm cloud at about 13,000 feet. Anyone who gets seats up there next year will need crampons and a rope. Huge plastic banners bearing Olympic pop-art insignia hang down from the ceiling like giant strips of flypaper, and everyone looks way down on three stages in front of the pipe organ. Never mind. The enthusiastic Mexicans packed the place.

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