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WORLD'S EYE ON SPORT
Andre Laguerre
December 03, 1956
Melbourne's Olympic stadium and its adjacent playing fields, now alive with competitors under the strong spring sun of Australia, hold the focused attention of 67 nations as the Games of the XVI Olympiad begin
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December 03, 1956

World's Eye On Sport

Melbourne's Olympic stadium and its adjacent playing fields, now alive with competitors under the strong spring sun of Australia, hold the focused attention of 67 nations as the Games of the XVI Olympiad begin

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The traditional ceremonies seemed long to some. As the sultry sun sank over the great bowl of the Melbourne cricket grounds, boys holding signs bearing the names of the nations in the middle of the field began to keel over. The fainting was contagious and ambulance men were soon wildly chasing hither and thither. A soldier holding the Olympic flag as it was about to be hoisted passed out abruptly. The acme of incongruity seemed to have been reached when Russia's Galina Zybina, champion shotputter and reputedly "the strongest woman in the world," also collapsed. None of this interrupted the crowd's continuous cheering, and while it was all going on three elderly British gentlemen were playing bowls on the Melbourne Cricket Club's green next to the arena. They were reportedly only slightly disturbed by the noise. That night the Olympic Games got off to an official start with a basketball game at the Exhibition Building, a small stadium with a tin roof which viciously conserves the day's heat. To the music of disintegrating beer bottles, Formosa China registered a mild upset over Korea.

The track and field events opened quietly at the main stadium on the first day of the Games proper. Officials in blue jackets and light panama hats marched to and from their posts with precision and in serried ranks, giving the arena the faint aspect of a military camp. The previous day's heat had given way to bitter cold as the women began to qualify for the discus throw and the men for the high jump. Within an hour the first Olympic competitor had been eliminated, a tubby, fair German girl in the discus event. She promptly burst into tears. It was nice to see the traditions being thus respected.

In these first days of the Olympic Games, described in accompanying dispatches from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED experts, certain personalities have already made an indelible mark on public awareness, either in winning or losing. They include two Americans, the sprinter Ira Murchison, who delights crowds with his bouncy warmups and broad smiles before races, and the basketball player Bill Russell, who is a phenomenon entirely new to the Southern Hemisphere. Also old favorites such as Emil Z�topek, who stirred great memories as he waved to the crowd while marching round the stadium, or John Landy, who read the Olympic Oath on behalf of all the athletes and upon whose performance in the 1,500-meter the whole of Australia is waiting with bated breath.

These first days also have graciously given us some sharply etched pictures of valid sporting moments which will endure as long as those who witnessed them can recall their particular glimpses of the ever new beauty of sport. For instance, the picture of an unknown Czech girl, Olga Fikotov�, a 24-year-old medical student who less than two years ago abandoned basketball for discus throwing, beating out the heavily favored Soviet women to win the Games' first track and field gold medal—a comely lass in a competition generally peopled by ungainly women; the picture of American youth running so much faster over short distances than the rest of the world that the spectacle became almost monotonous; the picture, above all, of a Russian sailor with a mop of fair hair, Vladimir Kuts by name, running the 10,000-meter race, running in front, running so grimly that he ground opposition beneath his spikes, running so that all marveled at the strength and determination with which his Creator had endowed this human frame; and the picture of the whole stadium rising to acclaim him with an emotion which transcended every kind of worldly barrier.

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