We believe that if we send abroad great men like Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Chief Justice Warren and many others from various walks of American life, great sportsmen like Bob Mathias, Jesse Owens and Sammy Lee should go too, to present a balanced picture of the American scene.
The promotion of the Olympic ideal—mutual respect and understanding among nations—is a big task. In working toward that goal, the International Olympic Committee can well stand some support from all Americans and from the governments and citizens of other lands.
American athletes on tours abroad have won immeasurable respect and abundant good will for the United States. Everywhere they have gone they have been welcomed by crowds of upward to 50,000 people at airports, stadia, market places and school grounds. They literally had to inch their way through throngs of admiring fans. Bob Considine, I.N.S. correspondent, in a column referring to Bob Richards' visit to the Orient, quoted the following from an observer in India:
"Bob's been doing a split week in India. He's the greatest thing that has hit Calcutta since they cleaned out the Black Hole. He's been traveling around places like Mysore and Bombay, Poona and Madras, pole vaulting and—more than just incidentally—making friends in a country where America could use a few. For the next week there wasn't a newspaper in India I picked up that didn't give Richards more space than Red China."
The chief editor of the West German Morgenpost expressed the feeling of Germany when he referred to the visit of the University of Pennsylvania's rowing crew as "memorable" and "as a type of solid German-American relations which really had impact and genuinely promoted friendship and better understanding."
Morgunbladid, an Icelandic newspaper, said of our soccer team, "They displayed the best in fair play and sportsmanship ever shown by a visiting soccer team."
The New York Times
in February carried a glowing account of Sam Fox's activities in Turkey: "The erstwhile gridiron star is the next thing to a national hero in the mountainous land of 23 million Moslems that straddles parts of Europe and Asia." The Times quoted the Governor of Istanbul as saying to Sam: "You have brought Turkey and America closer together." When Fox planned to return to the United States, Turkish children signed petitions, government leaders and newspaper editors raised their voices, all imploring him to stay.
An Englishman writing in the Ceylon Times said, "If the U.S.A. could only export a few more men like Bob Richards it would do itself and the world at large far more good than it will ever do with all its economic and military aid." All Americans may be justly proud of Richards' speeches throughout the Orient. Typical of his remarks in India: "Peace that has been the dream of Mahatma Gandhi, peace that had been the dream of Christ can very well be fostered through participation in sports, and I hope my presence here with you will in some small measure help us attain the peace on earth all good people yearn for."
Jesse Owens supported the Olympic ideal everywhere he traveled, with statements such as this: "It is the participating that really counts; through this we come to know each other. This is more important than the winning, because years later the medals and trophies are tarnished, but the time comes when you ask yourself, what kind of man am I, what have I made of myself? Participating in sports can provide you, when the time comes to answer that question, with an answer of which you can be proud." Jesse Owens "sports clubs" have sprung up throughout Malaya in such distant cities as Batu Pahat, Ipoh and Penang, places which Jesse visited and where he did his level best to help sports leaders in their efforts to provide wholesome activities for their young people.
An episode worthy of note here concerns Jesse Owens in Bombay. A commercial company offered him over $1,000 to endorse its product. Jesse accepted, on the condition that the money would be turned over to the Bombay Athletic Union to buy equipment for the youngsters of Bombay. This spontaneous, typically American gesture endeared Jesse Owens and his country to countless numbers of Indians. Similarly, when Mai Whitfield took off his track shoes, gave them to a star African athlete, then proceeded to run in his bare feet, he dramatically demonstrated the "good heart" of America, and, more, by running in his bare feet he showed in an eloquent fashion that greatness is attained not through mystical aids (such as "nailed" track shoes) but by self-discipline. With this one gesture he demonstrated the point that men have it within themselves to better their lot.