Monday, April 1, 2019


Tokyo Olympiad

Tokyo Olympiad, Kom Inchikawa's documentary of the 1964 Olympic Games, isn't your typical sports highlight reel. What we have here is more of the feeling and atmosphere of the games whether than who won or lost. I suppose that's why some who watch the film aren't that pleased with it. Those of a more artistic bent seem more prone to like it.

We have a Japan that is not yet two decades removed from World War II, but clearly embracing the world and the spirit of competition. It is interesting the sports that are highlighted, as we get more of fencing than we get of basketball (less than 10 seconds for basketball). Perhaps Ichikawa's method is the best frame to see watch this now, as we can appreciate the artistry of as opposed to who won.

The highlight for me was the Marathon (won by Ethiopian Abebe Bikila) which successfully highlights the individual drama of the competition with little or no commentary.


The 1972 Munich Olympics were the first Olympics that I can remember. Those involved will always be stuck in my memory because they seemed bigger than life to a nine-year-old. Among the athletes:

· Seven gold medal winner Mark Spitz, who used the Olympics as a stepping stone to appear in a Bob Hope special, at least that’s the only other thing I can remember him doing afterwards.
· Frank Shorter, who won the Marathon despite an imposter running in front of him when he entered the stadium for his final laps. (Featuring Jim McKay’s commentary on the imposter. “That man is getting applause that belongs to Shorter!” Or something like that. It’s just not the Olympics without the commentary of Jim McKay.)
· Dave Wottle, Gold medal sprinter (who looked nothing like a sprinter) and his unforgettable golf hat.
· Long distance runner Jim Ryun getting tripped during a race he was favored to win-though I still admire his futile, hopeless attempt to get back in the race.
· Vince Matthews and Wayne Collete, 400m medalists, who talked during the playing of National Anthem at the award presentation. (Not as memorable as the medalists giving the black power salute, but that was a different Olympics, a different time.)
· Olga Korbut, the greatest Olympic gymnast ever until four years later when Nadia Commenci became the greatest Olympic gymnast ever.
· The Men’s basketball final where the U. S. got screwed over
by the refs in the final game against the Russians. (Editorial note: We should still field a team of college players no matter what them other countries do.)

Other names of note: Kip Keino, Lasse Viren, Shane Gould, Steve Prefontaine, Rodney Milburn, Sugar Ray Seales, Duane Bobick, Dan Gable, Dwight Stones, Teofilo Stevenson et al., etc…etc.

Sadly, what the Munich Olympic Games will mostly be remembered for is the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. I'll never forget Jim McKay's dramatic commentary as the events unfolded ("They are no more").

This clip of Jim McKay is used in the beginning of Stephen Spielberg’s film
Munich. This film is more about the covert operation by the Israeli government to find (and kill) those responsible for the murders than the actual murders.Those murders are just the prelude here, but are smartly interspersed throughout the movie, so the viewer gets a greater understanding of what happened, or at least the films version of what happened.

Though the movie wasn't what I was expecting, it did have a lot to say about the difficulties involved in tracking, identifying, and killing terrorists.I like the way this is summed up by one of the movie’s characters:

The drunk Americans could have been CIA, for all we know Louis is CIA. They work both sides, everyone does. Or Louis is Mossad, now maybe he isn’t, but they’re using him to feed us information. There’s no direct link. Or Mossad’s giving it to the CIA, which is giving it to Louis and Ephraim’s demanding we give him Louis because we expect him to do…

How can you kill evildoers when you can’t even determine who they are?

For more fanatical fans of the Olympic Games, The Criterion Collection offers on Blu-Ray and DVD 100 Years of Olympic Films 1912-2012, which features 53 films from 41 Olympic films. It isn't cheap to purchase, but it looks like a great collection.


  1. The first Olympic games I remember was in Moscow 1980. Mostly because of the mascot, I was only 7 years old.
    Munich is more interesting than it appears at first glance. The layer where it questions the morality is as relevant today as back then. Those pictures from the attack in Munich are just horrible.

  2. In the U. S., the 1980 Summer Olympics was the one we boycotted and was not even televised.