When word reached
Montreal that Detroit's Red Wings had beaten the Canadiens for hockey's Stanley
Cup, Montrealers cried themselves to sleep. All week before the deciding game
their radios had blared a bouncy ballad, a chanson � r�pondre, which sang the
glory of Maurice Richard, the Canadiens' suspended indispensable man. Its
Qui est si populaire,
C'est Maurice Richard
Qui score tout l'temps.
consoled themselves that they had beaten Detroit three times on home ice, had
lost only on foreign soil and without Richard. Radio stations put the song on
ice until next year when, as the ballad says, Richard "will return again to
score for the Canadiens."
Like a faucet in
the middle of the night, the bickering over the 1956 Olympic Games in Australia
drips on. (Drip, drop, drip, drop, drip, drop.) Four years ago it was the
stadium: whether to hold it in the 90,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Grounds, which
didn't want the contours of its cricket pitch disturbed, or in the nearby
Carlton Oval, which the rival Melbourne Cricket Club didn't want to see
enlarged. Then it was housing: whether to take over the army's Albert Park
barracks or spend scarce housing materials and money on an Olympic Village.
Then it was Labor politicians objecting to the plans for a modernistic new
swimming stadium in Fawkner Park; they called it alienation of park land. There
was even a question whether official starting guns could be imported into the
state of Victoria (which contains the city of Melbourne) because they violated
a local firearms ordinance.
Through it all,
Avery Brundage, a Chicago lawyer who doubles as president of the International
Olympic Committee, had trouble holding his peace. Early this month Brundage
decided to fly out to Melbourne to see for himself. His first words were
encouraging: "I see nothing to warrant serious criticism.... There are
still 18 months to go."
examination, Brundage showed doubts: "The fact is there is nothing
finished.... It is possible to do the job with credit to Australia, but judging
from the record to date it is a grave question whether it will be done." As
he departed, Brundage sounded frankly pessimistic: "There is a remote
possibility Melbourne could lose the games.... All the other nations want the
games to be held in their countries."
Although a 1953
Australian Gallup Poll showed 17% of the Aussies opposed to holding the
Olympiad, the dissenters have been far louder than they are effective. Despite
sporadic interruptions by a chronic carpenters' strike, Labor Party politicking
and the cricket season itself, work on converting the Melbourne Cricket Grounds
and enlarging its capacity to 125,000 has been under way for nearly two years.
Olympic Park, with its huge new swimming stadium, velodrome for cycling races,
two football fields and auxiliary running track, is developing into a reality.
There are ample funds for the 700-unit Olympic Village, just seven miles out of
town; but, since it is primarily designed as a civilian housing project, there
is no point in completing it much before the 6,000 athletes and officials
arrive. The civilians can't move in until the Olympians depart.
No one, least of
all the Aussies themselves, really blamed Brundage for prodding them along.
They seemed to realize it is he who will take the rap if the games flop. On the
other hand, neither did anyone, including Brundage, seriously doubt that the
Desert Rats who helped drive Rommel out of Africa could put up a small housing
development and a few stadiums once they put their minds to it. Brundage acted
like a man who was simply trying to get them to concentrate on the job.
"It's a shame he did not come here 12 months ago," sighed an Olympic
official as Brundage hustled away.