A TOKYO OLYMPIC MISSSION FIVE DECADES APART
BY BRIAN POUND
September 19, 1964: The morning woke up angry, heavy rain pelted the lower mainland and in particular Empire Stadium where later that day the Achilles International Athletics Ltd. would host its inaugural meet, the International Olympic Preview, featuring Olympic track and field teams from Canada, the USA, Trinidad-Tobago and Jamaica, a final warmup for the teams on their way to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
And the rains came and came and came, not letting up until late morning, leaving the track soggy and in the words of one reporter looking like a sea of porridge.
Opinions on how to clear the track of water and make it useable were varied. One was to pour oil on the track and burn the water off. Another was to hire a helicopter and blow the water off. But the best decision came a few days earlier when Achilles’ director Gerry Swan talked the committee into buying rain insurance.
It would prove to save Achilles and the meet from financial disaster. And as the day improved the meet went ahead as scheduled, just under 7,000 spectators braving the elements to watch the biggest track and field meet in Canada since the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games at the same site.
Canada’s 14-member team showed well, all but two members finishing out of the top three in individual events. And then there was Harry Jerome.
The North Vancouver sprinter won the 100-metres in 10.4 seconds and was a step away from taking the 200 metre final against a field of the fastest men in the world. Jerome, of course, would go on to win the bronze medal in the Tokyo 100 metres.
Now come forward 57 years.
After a one year postponement due to the Covid pandemic, Tokyo is scheduled to host its second Summer Olympics July 23-August 8 and Achilles is once again ready to help Canadian track and field athletes get there.
But this time the scenario is very much different.
The Saturday, June 12, meet, now renamed the Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome International Track Classic, honoring the late great multi-world record holder, is under heavy health restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With those rules in place, three different facilities will host the meet all in one day, keeping athletes and officials’ numbers within provincial health office guidelines.
“The Jerome Classic will be a critical step in preparing athletes for the Tokyo Olympics in July,” said Achilles’ chair Doug Clement.
Achilles’ traditional home, Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium, will host running events, UBC will stage javelin and jumps (high jump, long jump, triple jump) and Kamloops the circle throws (shot put, hammer and discus).
The Swangard events will likely be contested in 60 minute blocks, with hour-long breaks to clear the grounds. At this point, no spectators will be allowed. Achilles is currently looking into producing a live-streaming program for the meet.
With the current restrictions on travel and quarantines in place, there will not be any International competitors this year so Achilles’ goal is to provide a platform for Canadian-based athletes who have yet to qualify or reach Olympic qualifying standards, just weeks away from the Olympic deadline.
Following the Jerome, the final major Olympic qualifier for Canadian athletes is the national championships June 24-27 in Montreal.
The 2021 Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic is planned for the June 12th weekend. The 38th edition of Canada’s longest standing track and field meet will focus on preparing our athletes for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, the Rashpal Dhillon Track & Field Oval at the University of British Columbia and the Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.
Meet organizer, Nigel Hole is asking any athlete who may have an interest in competing register their interest by completing this online form. Please recognize that registering on this online form does not guarantee participation.
ONLINE FORM LINK: https://forms.gle/nfQeTYmuxktGWgyH7
The public health regulations are sure to change by June 2021 and organizers are aiming to provide opportunities to athletes aiming to achieve qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. The final event list inclusion will change as we move forward in these challenging times.
If you are accepted to participate that information will be available on our website near the event dates www.harryjerome.com
Doug Clement, email@example.com
Brian Pound, media relations, firstname.lastname@example.org