The 1964 Summer Olympics featured 19 different sports encompassing 25 disciplines, and medals were awarded in 163 events.
The Games were beautifully run and the minor boycott had minimal effect. In athletics, Billy Mills of the United States pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history when he won the 10,000 metre run. Prior to the Olympic Trials he was only a longshot to make the United States’ team. At Tokyo, USA hopes rested on the slim shoulders of tiny Gerry Lindgren in that event, but a few days before the race, Lindgren sprained his ankle and was not at his best. However, Mills lowered his personal best by over 45 seconds to win the gold medal in a wild sprint finish against Australia’s Ron Clarke and Tunisia’s Mohamad Gammoudi.
The most decorated hero of the Games was swimmer Don Schollander who won four gold medals in men’s swimming. Schollander could have added a fifth gold medal but he was mercifully left off the medley relay team by US coaches, although he was America’s fastest freestyler.
The Japanese were gracious hosts but they were helped in their own efforts by two new Olympic sports: judo and volleyball. In volleyball the Japanese women, coached by the martinet-like Hirofumi Daimatsu, were easily victorious. In judo, the Japanese won three of the four gold medals. But the one they lost, in the open class to the Netherland’s Anton Geesink, was a crushing blow to the hosts.
Several repeat winners were prominent at Tokyo. Peter Snell, from New Zealand, won the 800 metre race again and this time doubled by also winning the 1,500 metre event
In the marathon, Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila repeated his Rome victory only a few weeks after recovering from an emergency appendectomy. Al Oerter won his third consecutive discus title, despite a disc injury in his neck, and torn rib cartilage sustained only the week before the discus throw. And in rowing, the Sovie Union’s Vyacheslav Ivanov also won his third consecutive title, in the single sculls.
Czechoslovakian gymnast Věra Čáslavská won three gold medals, including the individual all-around competition, crowning her the new queen over reigning champion Larisa Latynina.
Photos provided by Czech Olympic Committee, Olympic Committee of Serbia, Latvian Olympic Academy, German Olympic Sports Confederation, Bulgarian Olympic Academy/Bulgarian Olympic Committee