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February 29, 1960
Spectacle of Magic
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February 29, 1960

Events & Discoveries

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Spectacle of Magic

One of Walt Disney's pigeons, doing its best to make like a dove of peace at the opening of the 1960 Winter Olympics, flew slam-bang into a scoreboard. A snowstorm delayed the arrival of Vice-President Nixon—and thus, by 15 minutes, the opening of the Games themselves. For dreary moments the TV cameras seemed content to concentrate on a procession of camera-worn Hollywood faces that looked sillier than ever in the snow.

But Disney's confused pigeon straightened out at last and winged off into the wild blue, ceremonies and prologues made way for Olympic winter sport and the TV camera at last found its proper subject. Like the Disney pigeon once it found its wings, it soared triumphantly over Squaw and bore a whole nation of sports fans into new heights of excitement.

Few if any spectacles of televised sport have equaled, and certainly none has surpassed, the thrill of the women's downhill ski race as caught by CBS. Cameras artfully placed at strategic points along the mile-and-an-eighth course made it possible for a whole nation of viewers to follow with terrifying intimacy the hurtling progress of one tense racer after another. One could feel in his own nerves the tautness of brave little Penny Pitou as, arms tucked up and skimming downhill at 60 mph, she seemed to dedicate every fiber in her body to the production of speed and more speed. There must have been a single audible gasp from Maine to San Diego as Betsy Snite came a cropper on the vicious turn known as Airplane Curve, Squaw Valley's own Becher's Brook.

A word of specific praise is in order here for TV's recently slandered Orthicon tube. The snow, every last flying flake of it, that was brought to the nation's TV screens was certainly real, and it looked real—just as real as the real people and the real excitement. The quality of the show that the nation's homebound sports fans were discovering in wonder and joy for themselves on TV was even more apparent in the Valley itself. After all the gloomy predictions, after all the little squabbles and fusses, the 1960 Winter Olympics had created its own marvelous spectacle of daring, beauty and magic.

And Still Champion

Don Bragg, 24, is a private first class in the U.S. Army, and when he returns to civilian life one of these days he may go into the real estate business. Last week his legs were hurting: Bragg weighs 198 pounds, and the effort of lifting himself over 15-foot vaults for the last several years has given him a bad case of varicose veins—not to mention a sore tendon in his left, or takeoff, leg from a recent track meet in Boston.

But Don Bragg last week was also the defending pole-vault champion in the National AAU meet in Madison Square Garden. Half a dozen other good men were after his title. Aching tendon and all, Bragg decided to defend. By agreement with the officials, he took his first vault only when the pole had been raised to 15 feet one inch. The first two times, he fouled the bar, cleared it on the third. Then the bar was raised to 15 feet five inches. Bragg took a firm grip on his pole, sighted down the long runway, charged, went up, up and over, all 198 pounds of him. From the pit below, Bragg looked up at the bar over his head, level and stationary. Nobody else could get that high last week. Still champion, Don Bragg slipped into his street clothes and went off to get some sleep and some rest for his aching legs.

It Just Takes Five

High in the mountains of Central Montana and remote in the midst of a lodgepole pine forest sits the village of Neihart. Once Neihart was busy and bustling; then the gold and the silver mines petered out. Now its people number less than 300, and the total enrollment of its skinned-log high school is two girls and five boys. But Neihart High has a basketball team.

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