Who Won the Olympics?
If stern Avery Brundage had his way it would be an offense punishable by confiscation of all scrap paper and pencils to tally up team scores in the Olympic Games. The Games, according to Olympic officialdom, are not designed to puff the pride of nations but to prove the prowess of athletes as individuals.
This, of course, is a praiseworthy ideal, yet it is an incontrovertible and not entirely reprehensible fact that sports fans and patriots with no malice of intent were busy all over the world last week totting up the national team scores. Since there were no official rules to inhibit them, every man and every nation could feel free to make his own tally. In Russia, a leading sports magazine, the official Communist radio and the organ of a Red youth organization each used a different scoring method and they all added up to victory for the Soviets. In tiny Liechtenstein, there were doubtless many convincing arguments put forth to prove that a three-man team which placed 39th, 40th and 43rd out of 65 entrants in one ski event and 41st, 49th and 50th out of 63 in another was the real winner from a percentage point of view.
Deprived of grounds for claiming high aggregate scores, France, the U.S., Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Sweden each had reason to point with overwhelming national pride to spectacular single victories. But the one indisputable, over-all winner at Squaw Valley was no individual or nation at all, but the world itself, the world of sport and the world of people.
The habit of pessimism is easy in these days of endlessly continuing crisis, and it was constantly in evidence during the long months of preparation at Squaw Valley. Doom or, at the least, squalor was predicted for the VIII Winter Games for any number of reasons ranging from incompetent planning to the political schisms of the cold war. The fact that none of these dreary auguries materialized should not have surprised anyone, but there was room for both wonder and thanksgiving that they failed to materialize so very significantly.
Winter sports experts in Europe particularly had viewed the preparations at Squaw with disparagement, yet last week the Swiss president of the International Ski Federation, Dr. Marc Holder, together with two colleagues from Sweden and Norway, called this year's Winter Games the best ever held. "Never before," said Holder, "has there been so much done for the competitors and officials." "We've never seen anything like the way the Americans design and build equipment for preparing the courses," added Norway's Knut Korsvold.
In a more intimate, human way the failure of the world's international tensions to find a foothold at Squaw was just as spectacular. The friendliness and affection that existed between the competitors was obvious to millions of televiewers in quick unexpected little shots like that of Penny Pitou with her cheek close to that of the German girl who had just robbed her of her heart's hope, like that of a nameless American rushing out to comfort the little Polish girl who stumbled to the finish line in one event, sobbing at the fate that cost her a medal almost at the moment of triumph.
Even a ruckus among the U.S. speed skaters was productive of a rather special international tribute. "The only coaching I got," said one U.S. skater, "was from Russia's Klara Guseva. She spoke no English, but we got along in sign language. She was a darling." And the hotly contested hockey rivalry turned to an alliance when bested Russia offered the victorious U.S. a timely hint on beating the Czechs (see page 22).
"In the lineup of the columns on the ice, the Soviet and American athletes stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder," intoned Moscow's Pravda at the opening of the Games at Squaw. "The spectators approve this proximity, descrying therein one more good omen of the way to strengthening the friendship of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. and the U.S."
This is the pompous, diplomatic way of saying it on the eve of a summit conference. At Squaw itself they said it more simply, with a friendly smile and a handshake that put the whole world a lap or two ahead of the game.