Buck was allowed
to present our appeal. While the IOC deliberated, athletes mulled over their
personal courses of action in the event Rhodesia participated.
"I don't have
any question about which is the more important, my jumping in sand or the
inhuman treatment suffered by more than 90% of Rhodesia's population that is
non-white," said triple jumper Art Walker. "If that team stays, I'll
have to go."
Woods: "I didn't have to pass a political test to come here. I put the shot
70 feet. That's what I'm here to do, regardless of my sympathy for oppressed
people. There are so many issues we could boycott over—the Russians' treatment
of the Jews, the Nigerians' treatment of the Biafrans, the Pakistanis'
treatment of the Bengalis...We're vulnerable ourselves over our Vietnam
bombing. None of our governments are pure, so let's leave them out of it. When
all those people who can't be athletes first have gone home, I'll be here
putting my shot."
Our anxiety was
to no purpose. The IOC ousted Rhodesia. But the debate, once ignited, did not
die. Instead, it widened into a discussion of the true ends and essences of the
made the team," said intermediate hurdler Jim Seymour, "I thought of
all the things I'd do, like I'd just wear a plain white uniform because
competing for a country is political. Then I swung the other way and figured
I'd wear a McGovern button. Now I know that's wrong. The Games' only value is
their universality. Even though I'm against bombing, any bombing for any
reason, I couldn't wear one of the
OLYMPIC PROJECT FOR PEACE buttons unless I could take the 'Olympic' off it. I
can't stand the Games being used."
the imperfections of the Games themselves. The "representation" of
countries by competitors not only introduces nationalism but, because teams are
limited to two or three people per event, some fine athletes are prevented from
taking part. Three quarter-milers capable of winning medals stayed home in the
U.S., for example, and at least two of the finest steeplechasers in the world
were not entered because they were Kenyans.
As Mark Spitz
began stacking up his seven golds, one of our oarsmen spoke on the inequity of
opportunity between sports. He said, "Swimmers and sprinters can double or
triple without any trouble, and then get together on relay teams, so they're
always the heroes of the Games. An oarsman in the eights, by comparison, can
only take credit for one ninth of his medal. And that kind of unfairness aside,
I find it hard to call people in yachting, equestrian and maybe shooting real
Olympians. In my mind an Olympian is an individual who approaches the limits of
human performance. That entails enduring a kind of pain that you don't get
riding in a sailboat." As he spoke, he scrutinized me very carefully.
"Marathon," he said. "Yeah, I guess you're legitimate."
The final four
miles were through a chasm of yelling, clapping people. Where in the beginning
this noise was a distraction and an irritant, it now kept sense in our
If it is run
right, a marathon inflicts considerable physical damage. The cell walls of
muscles rupture. Tendons become inflamed. Joints, crunching together 15,000
times, wear away at cartilage. I ran it right, with the crowd's approval
roaring in my head, on a cushion of blood blisters. I tempted my twinging
thigh, forcing the pace, frantically trying to get back up to third, but as I
approached the stadium Lismont was out of sight and Wolde still had me by 200
In the tunnel I
felt the other hamstring going. On the track I just tried to hold together, to
hide my weakness. Around the last curve, when the crowd buoys you and you
sometimes experience a perverse desire that the race not end, I felt only a