And so while Moore was spending his first two days in Leningrad trying to persuade the Russians to let in his wife the rest of the team was sightseeing—and trying to figure out why it had come at all. It rained a lot and colds became common. "You either caught a cold from the rain falling on you while you slept or you suffocated," said Hurdler Ralph Mann. "The rooms were so tiny you had to sleep with either your feet or your head under the window. And if you didn't leave a window open it was real bad."
The team members also ran into the money problem. The athletes went to get their two dollars per diem and had to take rubles instead. Then the Russians took them on a shopping tour—to a Dollar Store, where their rubles were useless. "I asked the guide to take us to a place where we could spend our rubles," said Long Jumper Willye White. "The next thing I knew we were back in the hotel. They give us rubles and we can't spend them and we can't take them out of the country."
Then there was the food. The Russians served six courses, starting with milk that tasted—well, not good. Next, in order, came apple juice, strawberries, a salad, a tiny steak with home-fried potatoes, and, finally, cold cuts. The men usually demanded more and were ignored. "I'm so hungry I'll eat anything," said John Smith. For the girls it was a little easier. They are mostly tiny and cute and they don't need to eat that much.
"The biggest trouble with the food," said Mann, "was that we kept getting the same meat every day for lunch and dinner. I don't know what kind it was, but I've never had anything like it before. And there were no dogs or cats around the place."
The Russian team was staying at the same hotel but eating in a separate dining hall. One day at lunch Frenn demanded to be let in to where the Russians were eating. "They've got better food," Frenn shouted. "I can see it and smell it." They wouldn't let him in.
Part of the Russian game is never do anything now. Wait and maybe the crazy visitor will forget about it. They answer every request with one word: "When?" So you say to them, "Now, please," and they look at you like you're crazy. Finally, after they decide you're going to persist, they sigh and say, "Have a seat." And they let you sit for half an hour or more. But when they go into action, it's something to watch. When they move, they move quickly and efficiently, and what an hour ago seemed impossible suddenly is done in five minutes. And done well.
Well, at least most of the things they do they do well. At the last minute they tried to put a new track into Lenin Stadium and they came up with 400 meters of unbelievably bad road. It had to be the only asphalt track ever laid the day before an important international meet—by a bunch of old ladies. It looked like a tar road in Minnesota after a hard winter. Then they turned on the lights and the old ladies spent all night painting in the lines by hand. They wobbled a bit, the lines that is, but when the sun came out the next morning for a little while the markings were all there. Meanwhile, the U.S. team was sent off to practice at the athletic field of the institute of physical culture named after Lésgaft. And about 500 Russians, some with high-speed movie cameras, turned up to watch.
The night before the meet, the entire U.S. team went to see the Leningrad circus. In Russia, with only a pocketful of rubles, there is not a whole lot else to do.
"I thought the circus was great," said Half-Miler Mark Winzenried. "I haven't been to one since I was a kid, but I can't remember seeing one that good before."
"Yeah, it was great," said Frenn. "Except they had all the lions tranquilized."