Olympic Games

June 3, 1964

Report Outline
Soviet-American Rivalry in the Olympics
Olympic Games in Legend and in History
Contrasts in Russian and U.S. Athletics
Special Focus

Soviet-American Rivalry in the Olympics

Tokyo Prospects and American Physical Fitness

The eighteenth summer games of the modern Olympics, to be held in Tokyo next October, will be widely viewed as a major test of the relative athletic prowess of the United States and the Soviet Union. That the Olympics have become a testing ground for the two superpowers doubtless disturbs many people. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the French nobleman who revived the Olympics in 1896, once declared: “The important thing in the Olympic games is not to win, but to take part.” His concept of the games as a vehicle for international understanding has been strained of late by a tendency to treat them as grist for political propaganda.

In any case, the fortunes of nations in athletic competition at least give some indication of their devotion to ideals of physical fitness and excellence in sports. What happens at Tokyo during the fortnight of Oct. 10–24 will be followed closely by people all over the world. In addition to press and radio coverage, films of the activities of the 7,500 athletes from 79 nations will be broadcast by television stations in 39 countries from one side of the globe to the other.

Many Americans have already resigned themselves to a further slippage in the over-all record of U.S. athletes in the Olympics. World standards of performance are rising rapidly. National populations have recovered from wartime hardships, and some countries, paced by the Soviet Union, have put their athletic efforts on a highly organized basis. Calls now are heard in Congress and elsewhere for a reappraisal of American athletic programs with an eye toward a broader and more carefully managed sports effort. The answer may be provided by an ambitious movement to reinvigorate amateur athletics in the United States—a movement that was announced May 4 by a new citizens' group allied with the United States Olympic Committee.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jul. 03, 2012  Hosting the Olympics
Apr. 05, 1996  Centennial Olympic Games
May 25, 1984  Olympics 1984: Countdown to Los Angeles
Jul. 09, 1976  Olympics 1976
Jun. 03, 1964  Olympic Games
Diplomacy and Diplomats
Sports and Recreation