In the Olympic Winter Games at Cortina in 1956, the first the Russians ever entered, their performance was remarkable. Summarizing it after Russia beat the U.S. for the gold medal in ice hockey, Andre Laguerre wrote (SI, Feb. 13, '56): "The hockey success consecrated Russia's victory at the Games, which is definite by any system of point counting (six gold medals to Austria's four, 16 medals of all kinds to 11 for Austria)."
As we know, in theory, countries do not win Olympic Games; performers do. But, in fact, attention at the Games focuses as much upon nations as upon individuals. For better or worse, that's the way it is.
So, inevitably, as the VIIIth Olympic Winter Games at Squaw Valley approach, Russia draws attention, which can be called at the least considerable, not only for her performance the last time out but for her performance whenever she has competed in recent years. Russia's international records are as simple and definite as statistics and speak for themselves: behind them lies a broader but national story of the place of sports in the modern daily life of Russia.
It is a story which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED documented more than two years ago (SI, Dec. 2, '57) when Photographer Jerry Cooke, after a summer tour of the U.S.S.R., reported in words and 16 color pages the sports phenomena he discovered and explored. The article, among the most important SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has ever published, defined the Soviet Union's tremendous drive for fitness and world supremacy in sports and revealed, through the activities of the average citizen, the state of mind and body (perhaps it should be called state of state) which motivates it. One part, in 1957, could not be pictorially presented. For that Cooke returned to Russia last winter. Next week in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED his color photographs add this chapter—on Russian sports in winter as the Soviet citizen pursues them. It is not an Olympic story, except for its timely implications; but it is part of a story no less important than the Olympics themselves.
In connection with that story, which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED will be following closely from now to the end of the Games, Roy Terrell in this issue reports on the U.S. Olympic Alpine team tryouts at Aspen, Colo.
JERRY COOKE IN RUSSIAN WINTER