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While Smith was sliding, other U.S. athletes felt they were being pushed. Lee Evans, the 1968 400-meter gold medalist and Olympic and world-record holder who finished fourth in this year's Trials, apparently was led to believe that if he did well in pre-Olympic races he would replace one of the three 400-meter qualifiers, which didn't make them too happy. Rey Robinson, who ran a 9.9 to finish second in the 100-meter dash at the Trials, ran one bad race at Oslo, and Stan Wright, the men's sprint coach, replaced him on the 4 x 100 relay team with Larry Black, a 200-meter qualifier who is a superior turn runner. "I'm trying not to let it bother me," said Robinson, "but if I win the 100 in world-record time, which I plan to do, Wright has to face it, not me." The man Evans thought he would replace in the 400, Vince Matthews, changed a few minds during a training meet when he ran a 44.7 to beat Evans by a 10th of a second. "And now," said Matthews, "I hope all that talk has ended."
Later, 5,000-meter runner Steve Prefontaine took on a field of plodders in the second of two 3,000-meter races that were run in the informal meet. Well, for them it was only 3,000 meters. Prefontaine and Bowerman had the officials step off an extra 240 yards, making the course exactly two miles.
"What's that for?" a friend asked Pre.
"Oh, I figured I might as well get the American two-mile record while I'm here," he said. Then he shot a wicked grin. "It will give those guys in the 5,000 something to think about." Frank Shorter had planned to run with Prefontaine but when he decided it was too cold and withdrew, Bowerman told Prefontaine to run in the first heat with another teammate, Leonard Hilton. When he lined up at the start a letter-of-the-law German official ordered him off the track; Prefontaine was entered in the second heat and the second heat was the race he would run in.
"God, they won't bend," growled Bowerman. "Everything is a hassle. I've got to go out tomorrow and fight with the police to let our hammer throwers throw. I might not get back."
Finally, Prefontaine ran. In the cold and the dark, with the West German team screaming, "Go, Pre! Go!" from the terrace of a beer garden that abutted the track, Pre ran on—a chesty, little figure with flowing hair—and finished half a lap ahead of the field. "Some German kept yelling, 'Halt, the race is over,' and I started to laugh," he said later. He was still laughing when he finished the two miles in 8:19.4, well under George Young's official U.S. record of 8:22.0. "Just a time trial," he said, which in effect it was, since the timers did not meet official standards.
The next day the beleaguered Bowerman returned safely from his battle with the police to find that his seat for the opening ceremonies had been sold. There is a section of the stadium set aside for athletes and coaches, but the Germans assumed all of them would be marching, so why not sell the space for one day? What they had overlooked was that all the athletes and coaches don't march. Bowerman's rage was truly Olympian. "Sorry," said the Germans, "but our computers didn't tell us. Nothing can be changed."
And so, last Saturday afternoon, Bowerman and his wife Barbara were standing alone outside the vast stadium as Olga Connolly carried the American flag past President Gustav Heinemann, without so much as a hint of a dip. Olga, like her husband before her, wanted to break with the stiff-necked tradition, but earlier in the day had accepted a compromise proposed by her fellow athletes. She would keep Old Glory up as it passed the German president, but she would lower it during the reading of the Olympic oath, which she did.
They let the 5,000 doves go, lit the Olympic flame and the Games were on. One of the doves fluttered weakly about the stadium and then fell dead at the feet of the Brazilian delegation. Thank God it didn't fall on Olga Connolly.