The 1940 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan, but were reassigned to Helsinki, Finland after Japan invaded China. However, after the Soviet Union invaded Finland, the Games were cancelled.
The 1944 Games, to be hosted by London, were postponed to 1948 due to World War II.
1948 —1960: The Lucky Boat?
The 1948 Games were the first Games to be shown on television, allowing viewers around the world to watchHerman Whiton '26collecthis gold medal for the six-meter class in sailing. Whiton, who had placed sixth in the 1928 Games in the boat Frieda, went on to the 1952 Games to repeat his 1948 gold medal finish. Whiton, who waspresident of the Union Sulphur & Oil Corporation, financially supported aspiring sailors. Once, he even purchased eight boats to endow a series of nautical summer courses.
In both 1948 and 1952, Whiton sailed with the boat Llanoria, though he had different crews at each of the Games. Whiton’s wife, Emelyn Whiton, served on the crew of Llanoria at the 1952 Games.
Gerrit Schoonmaker ’53, thefather of Olympic fencerLeon Schoonmaker '04, was the only other competitor from the University at the 1952 Games in Helsinki. Schoomaker competed in men’s sailing and did not achieve a medal.
Robert Stinson, Jr.’55, a three time All-American lacrosse player at the University, competed in men’s sailing at the 1956 Games in Melbourne. He was a Navy officer at the time of the Games and earned a fourth place finish.
American fencer Kinmont Hoitsma’56, the only other competitor from the University at the 1956 Games, did not advance beyond the first round in the teamépéeevent. In the individualépéeevent, he advanced until the quarterfinals, where he even beat eventual gold medalist Carlo Pavesi on the way.
The 1960 Games in Rome were the first —and thus far, only —Games in history that did not have a competitor from the University.
1964: “But Harvard and Yale have two”William Bradley ’65 was the first Ivy League basketball player to compete at the Games when he captained the American squad at the 1964 Tokyo Games. At 21, Bradley was the youngest player and lone undergraduate on the team. His team won the gold after beating the Soviet Union, 73-59, in the finals, giving the team a 9-0 record.
American cyclist John Allis ’65, who began racing at the University, competed in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Games beforeretiring to coach Harvard’s club cycling team.
When Allis signed on as a category one amateur to become the first English speaking competitor at the ParisianAthlétic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt, he was told that Americans were biologically unfit to compete. However, when he won his first race, the team had to find him a clean jersey to wear on the podium — they had given him the worst one in the shop.
When Allis placed fourth in the Olympic trials for the 1964 Games, the University almost decided to not let him compete, according to anarticlepublished in 2002 in the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Allis was on academic probation at the time and had already missed some classes due to the trials.
“I went into the Dean of Students and said, ‘Hey, I’ve made the Olympic team. I’d sort of like to take three weeks off and go to Tokyo.’ The dean said, ‘Absolutely not, no way; you’re on academic probation …Okay, we’ll take it up in faculty meeting,’” Allis said to PAW.
Allis added that he was called back a few days later and given permission to go to the Games, since Harvard and Yale each had two people going to the Games, but the University had only Bradley.
“The dean said, ‘If we don’t let you go, we’re going to get a lot of flak from the alumni,’” Allis said to PAW.
Allis then cycled his way to 66thplace, the top American finish, at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. Several years later, however, Allis said to the Somerville News Blog that his biggest disappointment was not performing better at the Games.
“The race organizers [at the 1964 Games in Tokyo] had constructed a roadway over a hill with foot deep rain gutters on the sides. Near the top, there was a pileup which I was caught behind,” Allis explained in aninterviewwith the Somerville News Blog.
Allis said that his 20thplace finish at the 1968 Games could be attributed to the fish soup he had the night before the race.
“The next morning I awoke with an abnormally high pulse rate. I started the race but I had nothing. By the end I, was very sick,” he told the Somerville News Blog.
At the 1972 Games, where Allis finished 63rd, he said that he was burned out by the long tryout process in place for the cyclists.
“By the time the race rolled out, I was pretty burned out. In the race, I saw the winning break go and I managed to escape the field to try and bridge up to the break. I made all of the right moves, but when I found myself alone, trying to bridge the gap, I finally just burned out. I didn’t have the legs,” he told the Somerville News Blog.1968: Protests and Love StoriesThe 1968 Games in Mexico City were the first modern Games to be held in a developing nation. American rower Douglas Foy ’69 said thatfood was imported for the American team because there was a great concern about people getting gastrointestinal issues from eating the food served there.
Foy, who was also on the University’s football team, saidthat Mexico was “incredibly upbeat and excited about the Games.”
American swimmer Ross Wales ’69 said that a few weeks prior to the Games, he had read about some serious student demonstrations that had occurred in Mexico, possibly due to the Mexican government’s decision to remove some people from Mexico City.
“Everybody was aware of those [protests], but the attitude or atmosphere and made it seem like distant history, because by the time we got to Mexico City, there was no apparent protesting or dissention among the citizens of Mexico City. We weren’t aware of any friction whatsoever,” Wales said.
American rower Peter Raymond ’68 said that“war and peace sat together on the bus, at the dinner table” in Mexico.
“After the poverty from which we visitors were supposed to be distracted by colorfully painted walls, the first impression was of a country at war: combat-equipped soldiers guarding transportation links, the main entrance to the Estadio Olímpico Universitario flanked by soldiers crouching behind .50 calibre machine guns —all in response to protests against the Games' cost by University students, culminating ten days before the Opening Ceremonies with the Tlatelolco Massacre,” Raymond said.
Raymond added that the Games compartmentalized Mexico City.
“In one part, the Olympic Village's fiesta of music, color and food, with giddily excited athletes and Mexican hosts; in the other, sullen, vigilant soldiers, most of whom were my age or younger. The Mexicans were …doing some fierce compartmentalizing themselves … Everywhere were signs: 'Everything is possible in peace' and 'My home is your home',” he said.
Wales said that Raymond dated a woman from Mexico, who served Coca-Cola in the Village.
“She made more money serving Coca-Cola in the Village than she did as a teacher in Mexico City, which told us a lot about the situation in Mexico City and made it easier for us to understand what the protests were about,” Wales said.
Raymond said that Diana Bracho, the woman he fell “madly in love” with,had cowered in her college dorm bathtub while “bullets smacked into the building's walls.”
However, the local Mexican protests were not the only protests that took place around the Games. The Olympic Project for Human Rights, which was an organization for athletes to protest the treatment of African Americans in the United States,had several supportersamong the Ivy League athletes at the 1968 Games.
Wales said that he received a letter from one of the rowing athletes from Harvard, whom he had met at the University, about the kinds of demonstrations they could undertake at the Games. Wales added that it was likely that Harvard’s eight rowers, along with their coxswain, sent out such letters to people they knew.
“[Civil rights] impacted lots of college campuses… Regardless of how sympathetic athletes may have been, especially non-African American athletes, there was not a lot of enthusiasm for interrupting your preparation for what you saw to be your biggest meet in order to join in the demonstration,” Wales explained.
According to Foy, the “black power” protests became quite controversial when two African American 200-meter runners, gold and bronze medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos, stood on the medal stand barefooted and raised a clenched, black-gloved fist while bowing their heads during the American national anthem. The Australian silver medalist at the event, Peter Norman, wore an OPHR badge in support of Smith and Carlos.
When Carlos realized that he had forgotten his black gloves, Norman had suggested that Carlos and Smith could each wear one of Smith’s gloves on the podium, according to a 2008articlepublished by the BBC.
"Black America will understand what we didtonight,"Smith said.Two days later, Carlos and Smith were suspended from the American team, expelled from the Olympic Village and sent home.Wales, who lived in the same building as Carlos and Smith, said that he saw them departing from his window after what they had done had become immediate news all over the world.
“We knew that I had gone on, but we weren’t aware that they were going to what they did until it happened,” Wales said.
Foy said that though he was not directly involved in the protests, the rowing team was very upset about Carlos and Smith’s removal, and tried to protest it, but to no avail.
“It was those people who swam two minute races, which were approximately 200 meters long, where they would collapse on the victory stand because they were able to swim their race at very near their times. But when they were done, and by the time they got to the medal ceremony, I think I remember five or six of them collapsing,” Wales said.
According to Wales, the American distance swimmers did not face as much of a problem, since they had trained for six weeks at the high altitude Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs before the Games.
“All of the distance swimmers would go up to a cottage 8,000 feet higher and spend the night there to get accustomed to the altitude… If the race was over two minutes, you would have to modify your race —not go quite as fast at the beginning, because you couldn’t get enough oxygen in your blood to finish the race,” Wales said.
Raymond said that the rowing team too trained at high altitude in preparation for the Games.
“The 1968 Olympic rowing team was, I'd guess, the most cohesive ever because we trained together for weeks at altitude in Gunnison, Colo., after which even the Penn-Harvard gnashings of teeth subsided to muted respect. There was a great deal of laughter in that group,” Raymond said.
Raymond added that the rarefied air at the high Mexican altitude affected his performance.
“In the penultimate race, I had foolishly stung myself in the rarefied air so badly that I suspect my body wanted never to do that again; and just before launching for the finals, three coaches, in something of a panic, warned me as stroke not to go out too hard because all the U.S. crews had run out of gas in the last quarter of the race —so I went out way too slowly and put my four right out of the race,” Raymond said.
Carl Van Duyne’68, a favorite for the gold medal in sailing at the Games, sailed in the first race without anyone in sight. However, when his boat’s sail touched the flag of a race marker buoy, Van Duyne disqualified himself, even though only he knew that he had touched the marker. Van Duyne dropped out of the race, and ranked 11thof 48 countries. The 'Van Duyne rule' was established soon after to allow sailors to re-round a marker they touched.
Wales went on to win the bronze medal in the 100-meter butterfly event, which was one of the six events at the 1968 Games where the United States won all three medals.
“It’s not often that a thirdplace medalist still gets to hear National Anthem being played at the ceremony... [collecting the medal] was a special feeling,” Wales said.
Wales was soon drafted into the military, where he continued to swim for more than two years. At the trials for the 1972 Games, he competed as a member of U.S. Army and missed the team by five hundredths of a second. Knowing that he was not going to swim in another Olympics, Wales retired from the sport.
Next in The Olympics Series: 1970s