The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

USA-USSR Dual Meets

I have at times been called "a bottomless pit of useless knowledge". Well, sometimes it's useful; when my college roommate was on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" I was one of his three lifelines.

So when the request came for scholarly info on the old USA-USSR dual meets, I was on it. From the Journal of Sport History, Fall 2001:

“It Was Communism Versus the Free World”: The USA-USSR Dual Track Meet Series and the Development of Track and Field in the United States, 1958–1985, by Joseph M. Turrini.
Eighty-one thousand spectators packed into Stanford Stadium on a sunny California afternoon in Palo Alto to see the US and USSR national track teams battle on the second day of their two-day dual track and field meet. The July 15-16, 1962 meet was the fourth competition in a dual track meet series between the two strongest national track powers in the world that spanned 28 years (1958-85). On this second day, Valeriy Brumel, a popular Soviet high jumper, thrilled the crowd when he jumped 7’5” and broke his own world record in the high jump. The day before most of the enthusiastic attendees stayed late, after the running events had finished, and watched American Harold “Hal” Connolly heave the hammer 231’ 10” to break his own world record. A national television audience tuned in to watch what was arguably the biggest non-Olympic track event ever held in the United States. According to a New York Times editorial, “the most dramatic moment came at the conclusion of the meet when athletes from both countries walked arm in arm around the stadium to the accompaniment of their national anthems and a tremendous ovation from the large audience.” Just months before Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy neared the brink of nuclear war in Cuba, Soviet and American track athletes competed in harmony.

Thirty pages of text plus fifteen pages of references. It's an excellent read.


Scotty Bush said...

Fantastic post. The state of track and field could use more dual meets between countries such as this. I would say U.S. v. Russia or U.S. v. China would be huge attention getters these days.

henry howard said...

I and one of my best pals, son of our HS track coach, were at that meet both days. One of our former 'enemies', Jim Mathias, brother of Bob, worked the hurdle crew. His seating was better than ours, but these were memorable days. Still are. Yes, we need more meets such as this.

John Radetich said...

I attended this meet as an 8th grader from nearby Redwood City. I was in awe of the amazing talents in the stadium. One event, the high jump, actually set the course in my life. Seeing V Brummel set the world record gave me a goal that took me 11 years to accomplish. In 1973 I eclipsed his indoor world record of 7'4 5/8" by a slim centimeter. To this day, it is still the most impressive athletic event I have ever seen. Today I was visiting with my college coach, Bernie Wagner, and we looking over some of his memorabilia. He had a copy of the program from that meet. It actually gave me goose bumps to actually hold and look at the program.