Delayed in JFK with Ollan Cassell



Delayed at JFK (L-to-R: Josh Gulotta, Jeff Benjamin, Ollan Cassell, Tony Gulotta)
Photo by Emma Uible

Ollan Cassell was a 1964 Olympic bronze medalist at 400 meters and also on the 4x400m gold medal winning relay team. Ollan Cassell, after that, worked for the AAU first, and then, ran our sport for TAC/USA and for nearly forty years, controlled the fortunes of the sport of track & field in this country and influenced the world sport. I have always had time for Ollan as his stories from the old days always helped me understand how things were being done today. Jeff Benjamin was able to catch up with Ollan as their flights were delays to Rio!

Getting delayed at the airport can be a frustrating thing, unless one is going to an Olympic Games. One never knows who you may meet, and my group and I ran into Ollan Cassell. Cassell, who led the Sport nationally (he was also an IAAF member) for almost 30 years, was also a Gold Medalist in the 1964 American 4X400 which set the World Record (3:00.7)

Cassell recently came out with his autobiography, called "Inside The Five Ring Circus: Changing Global Sports and the Modern Olympics", and he regaled our group with a really great Athletic Cold War story which is mentioned in the book as well.

Prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Cassell competed as a member of the Army teams and engaged in one of the strangest Cold War Athletic events ever- The "Fake Meet".

According to Cassell:

"We were in Brussells and a Colonel showed up with a couple of armed guards. We were put on buses and were told that we were going to show off our track team and give a demonstration for a visiting East German and Russian General to show them how powerful we were. We arrived at a base in Berlin and competed in front of the top brass, along with East German and Russian officers. But the watches were already set up with the finishing times before we even competed! I guess they wanted to show them these times they said we were going to run and then the results which would be the same! I remember Willie Davenport winning the 100 but his time was already set up on the watch before the race so we have no idea what he ran! But remember this was the Cold War and this is what went on. It was all about showing them!"

On top of that, and another indicator of the time, "We were ordered to be sworn to secrecy for 5 years, so we couldn't even talk about it!," said Cassell.

A great story, which made the flight delay pass rather quickly!!

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