As the seventh Winter Olympic Games approached the halfway mark, the Soviet Union, in its first try, was the only nation close to dominating them.
That, for the sporting world in general and the United States in particular, is the unaccommodating truth, only partly camouflaged by the color and gaiety which outwardly characterize the festivities at Cortina d'Ampezzo.
These, if superficial, are real enough. The Corso Itali, twisting main stem around which this little town is built, is ablaze with the flags of 32 participating nations. The five Olympic rings decorate every store window. Between events, athletes, reporters and fans, in multihued capes and sweaters, so throng the streets that all automobiles except those with the highest priority are barred from the center of town.
At night the dance floors and bars at the biggest hotels, like the Bellevue, where the bulk of the U.S. team is lodged, and the Savoia, which houses some 400 newsmen, throb and bulge with the merrymaking of as motley a crew as can be met outside an international peace conference. Food (spinach is almost the only green vegetable available in Cortina) and drink (Scotch whisky at $1.30 a shot) leave something to be desired. But most of the 12,000-odd visitors who have tripled the population of this small Dolomite resort seem determined to consider the Olympic Games as something to be enjoyed. And that goes for a good many of the competitors.
Not, it is almost superfluous to say, for the Russians. It is their wont on these occasions to live some distance from the heart of the matter, and they have isolated themselves in a lonely hotel at Tre Croci, a 5,700-foot mountain pass 3� miles from Cortina. Here, in their brown hats and blue coats, on which the letters "C C C P" are stitched in white, they sleep and eat (three steak meals a day) in seclusion, and are polite but reticent when approached. In fact, they are surprised at liberties taken with them.
SI Photographer Jerry Cooke, who speaks Russian, overheard the following dialogue between two Russian skiers in a group he surprised at training:
First skier: "But has he been given permission to photograph us?"
Second skier: "No."
First skier: "He should be reported."
Second skier (evidently not on his first trip through the Curtain): "Here they do not have to have permission to photograph us."