DO WE HEAR 3:50?
Three men—all of them marvelous athletes, but none of them specialists and none of them keyed for superhuman sacrifice—ran a mile in less than four minutes at London's White City Stadium (see p. 28). Only 13 months ago the four-minute barrier seemed all but impregnable, and Dr. Roger Bannister did not pierce it without calling on an audacity which few men possess and experiencing depths of physical agony which few men could endure. Both Bannister and John Landy steeled themselves for their dramatic duel last August like men preparing to run through fire.
In so doing, it now seems quite obvious, they relieved the minds of other men. This is not to say that Hungary's second-string Miler Laszlo Tabori found it easy to run 3:59, nor that England's old pacer, Chris Chataway, or his teammate Brian Hewson, managed 3:59.8 without tribulation. The four-minute mile will always be a fierce test of both spirit and body. Conditions at White City Stadium were almost perfect: the air was windless, cool and winy, the track was damp and resilient, and a pacer brought the field to the half-mile mark in just a shade over two minutes.
Two years ago, after such a start, the best of milers might well have been burdened by a fear of running themselves into the ground. But though Chataway had never exceeded 4:04, and Tabori and Hewson had never broken 4:05, they battled on, unchecked. Their last quarter, run in reckless quest of victory, and with little' thought of the clock, was by far faster than any lap Bannister or Landy ran in any of their performances—56.8—and three men were astounded to discover they had joined the immortals. After hearing the time, Bannister's coach, Franz Stampfl, predicted forthwith that the mile will soon be run in 3:50.
Last April Jim Gallagher, business manager of the Chicago National League Baseball Club, more informally known to North Side Chicagoans as the Cubs and something of an institution since 1876, wrote us a letter which wound up with the sentence: "Congratulations on the fine job you are doing with the magazine, but don't bet your money on your baseball expert." In the previous issue, our baseball expert had described the outlook for the Cubs as follows: "Far from bright. Too many weak spots. No better than seventh, possibly the cellar." That this was a reasonable bit of speculation on the part of our expert was substantiated by the fact that Jim Gallagher, an obviously biased party, was the only man in the whole wide baseball world who raised his voice in objection. We were convinced that Gallagher had taken leave of his senses, but right now, as we flip the calendar to another month, we are not so sure. The name in second place just below the Dodgers in the National League standings is unmistakably, as any expert could tell you, that of the Cubs.
Until the job turned his stomach, Yuri A. Rastvorov used to be a Soviet intelligence officer in Japan. In the current issue of LIFE, Ex-agent Rastvorov reveals still a further side of the Soviet approach to sport:
"In the spring of 1952 our intelligence office in Tokyo received instructions from Moscow to collect all possible information on the strengths and weaknesses of local teams and athletes and to 'report on the honesty and quality of the managers, coaches and trainers of nationally known sports teams.'
"The implications of this last instruction were obvious.... I had a conversation with the coach of the Dynamo basketball team in which he admitted that the buying of foreign officials and judges was a routine part of Soviet sport strategy."
There is no evidence so far that the Russians have succeeded in subverting non-Russian sports officials—despite their acknowledged success in other fields of subversion. After all, despite formidable tales about the Russian athletic steamroller, Soviet athletes have done about as well as might be expected of a country of 193 million, not suspiciously better.