MOSCOW 2013 - 10, LOOKING BACK: MOSCOW AND THE 1980 OLYMPICS, 10. Random Memories by James Dunaway

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Moscow 2013, Luzhniki stadium, photo by PhotoRun.net


MOSCOW 2013 - 10

LOOKING BACK: MOSCOW AND THE 1980 OLYMPICS
 
10.  Random Memories

 
Flying in from Montreal on an Aeroflot jet, we flew very low the last 100 miles. You could see the birch forests clearly, make out individual trees. Of course there was a certain amount of worry about Russian pilots, but our landing was so gentle that when they hit the thrust reversers I thought we were still in the air, and exclaimed the mandatory "Oh sh-t!"  Now THAT is a smooth landing!
 
In a way, the boycott was a blessing for the Soviet government. Something like half of the expected tourists and journalists didn't come. If they'd all showed, Moscow might have run out of food during the Games. In the press workrooms, they had hundreds, maybe thousands, of IBM electric typewriters; by the end of the Games hardly any of them still worked. If all those who were expected had come, I'm really not sure the USSR could have handled things.
 
Rollen Stewart, the guy with the rainbow-colored afro wig, showed up in Moscow and reportedly was arrested and held briefly by the local cops. I never saw him at a stadium, but did see him in front of the Press Center, holding the wig under his arm. He seemed the wimpiest of wimps.
 
Some teen- and college-age English-speaking Russian kids (whose parents probably worked in Soviet Embassies overseas) were a great help to American reporters, or at least to this one. I had brought a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label scotch with me from the States, and hadn't even cracked it. So I took it to the Closing Ceremony, figuring lots of people would be happy to help me empty it. The competition was over, and things were pretty relaxed that day, and the kids were all sitting in the press stand. I was sitting with one of them, a bright kid named Mikhail who had been really helpful, and a woman journalist friend. Since I had only one glass, I filled it somewhat more than half full, intending to pass it around a sip at a time. I handed it first to Mikhail, who promptly downed the entire 6 or 7 ounces. Amazed, I said, "Jesus Christ, Mike! You drink like a Russian!" He looked at me for a moment, thought about what I had said, and replied, "Well, I AM a Russian!"
 
Besides track-and-field, other sports I covered included swimming (saw Vladimir Salnikov become the first swimmer to break 15 minutes for the 1,500 free when he won in 14:58.37); saw gymnast Nadia Comaneci at her best (although the Soviet judges didn't seem to think so); and saw Cuba's heavyweight boxing star, Teofilo Stevenson, pummel a Russian boxer and win his third Olympic gold medal in a row.
 
I worked very hard, and was very lucky. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

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