GIVING IT A COLLEGE TRY
This summer the athletic department of Ohio State University will spend its own money to conduct an unusual experimental program that merits close attention from communities everywhere. Using OSU facilities and coaches, the athletic department is offering to instruct boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 17 in any one of five sports—track, gymnastics, basketball, swimming and wrestling.
"The needy will have the highest priority," Athletic Director Richard Larkins says. "But as of now we think we can take care of whatever number registers [perhaps as many as 6,000], and our football and basketball programs are going to pay for it. We'll use athletic receipts. I'm very excited about the idea, mostly because nobody is forcing us to do it."
The program, which will run from June 24 through August 14, will offer two-or three-hour sessions in each sport five days a week. Assisting the OSU coaches will be approximately 70 teenage instructors, many of them Ohio State students.
Larkins is looking realistically at the hazards of the plan. "I could wake up with a nightmare," he says, "but I don't think so. This is not a program to solve the ills of society. It is not designed specifically for Negroes. It is a program for youth. We'll take a hard look at the program when it's over. But if you start now thinking of reasons not to do something, you'll never get anything done. One thing I do know is that kids who are shooting baskets aren't shooting guns. If we open doors for them they won't be breaking them down."
When some of us were much younger and drank sodas after sandlot baseball games the kids who did not hit, or could not hit, always came in for the most abuse. Remember, "He's got a swing like a rusty gate"? or "The game's no fun if you look at two and only swing at one"? Then there was that other line, "He can't hit his weight." At the end of last week some of baseball's best known names were entering the second month of the season in a state of virtual weightlessness.
One of the individual's rare conquests in the spirit vs. the system battle is occurring in Munich where the 1972 Olympic Games complex will be constructed around a church that has been built by hand by an 87-year-old Russian hermit, Father Timofey Prokorov. Fleeing in front of the Russian army, Father Timofey and a companion, who is known as Sister Natasha, arrived in Munich in 1945 and asked city authorities for a loan of a plot of land, no matter how un-arable or inaccessible. They were offered a barren 3,500-square-meter plot near a dump of rubble.
Within a few seasons Father Timofey had cherry, apple, apricot and pear trees bearing fruit. His potato patch was excellent, and his sunflowers were doing nicely. Beehives were set among the tulips and lilacs. And gradually buildings began to grow, too: first a small hut, then a tiny chapel crowned with an onion-shaped steeple, then another hut and finally the church itself, which astonished experts now consider a true work of primitive art. Its onion-shaped steeples are fashioned of wire and burlap, the Russian crosses topping them are of lattice wood, and the bells that chime three times a day are iron girders suspended on wire. Inside, the multivaulted ceiling is surfaced with aluminum foil and studded with chandeliers. Numerous decorations give the impression of gay Byzantine wealth.
Three months ago city officials ordered that the land be cleared to make way for the Olympic stadiums. But the architect chosen to draw the plans for the complex heard of the hermitage and went to visit Father Timofey. Struck by the sincerity of the man and impressed with the artistic value of the church, he revised the original plans—which would have made the church site a parking lot. The small huts where the two aged people live will be replaced by more comfortable, Russian-style houses. But the chapel and church will remain just as they are and will certainly rank as a major Olympic attraction.