South Africa, whose apartheid policy has made it anathema in most areas of world sport, opened its own Olympic-style games last week and in a gesture of amity announced that the games would be interracial as well as international. But while many of the strict apartheid laws were relaxed or suspended for the occasion, the government made it clear that the South African races (black, white, colored, Asian) would not be competing together as a national team but separately as distinct groups.
This put racial liberals in other countries in a quandary. Would taking part in the South African games help the cause of unrestricted competition (an opening of the door to racial equality) or hurt it (by giving intransigent South Africa an aura of respectability)? Hundreds of foreign competitors were on hand as the games began, but many others had been deterred by adamant anti- South African pressure at home.
It was an agonizing paradox. Right-wing elements in South Africa (where right wing means way over there) came out against the games, saying they would lead South Africa down the road to integration and chaos, but the government said not so, that they were merely an extension of the country's long-standing policy of separate racial development.
Cry, the beloved country.
Harvard, the richest university in the world, is playing poormouth with the post of basketball coach. Well, not really, but it is watching the pennies. Harvard fired Bob Harrison, who still had a year to go on his contract, because it was dissatisfied with his performance. But instead of immediately hiring a replacement, the school indicated it would take on a part-time coach for a year while it searched high and low until it found the right man for the job. However, those close to Cambridge say it is not quality that is causing the delay so much as it is quantity—of money. Budget-conscious Harvard still has to pay Harrison, and the athletic department has to settle for the part-time economy-size until Harrison's contract expires and there again is enough money on hand to hire a full-time coach.
SPIKES AND DOLLARS
Professional track in the U.S. is having growing pains (page 24), but its future may be bright. Some cause for optimism comes in an article in Runner's World by Australian distance runner Bill Emerton. Emerton, who was good enough to compete in the British Empire Games a couple of decades ago, says professional track is a thriving sport in Australia although it is strictly a runner's pastime, since there are no field events. The season extends from November to April, with the best organized meet at Easter in a country town called Stawell, 185 miles north of Melbourne. Emerton says as many as 5,000 pro runners converge on Stawell for a two-day meet, with events at distances from 75 yards to two miles. Crowds of 40,000 and more jam the stadium, and betting is very heavy. The featured event is a 130-yard sprint, with a prize of about $3,000 going to the winner, plus what he makes from his own bets.
Sounds like a carnival sport. Emerton admits he has no idea if pro track will become popular in the U.S. but argues, "If betting were to become legal, it would certainly enhance the sport's drawing power."