When the Olympic Games dispute came to a head this spring, Tex Maule filed a story for us from Lausanne, Switzerland (SI, April 29) on the International Olympic Committee's controversial decision to reverse itself and once again ban South Africa. Then, amid postdecision furor and comment on the decision, much of it uninformed and emotional, Tex made his way south from Lausanne 8,000 miles to Johannesburg, South Africa to learn for himself the conditions that prevailed. His unique and perceptive report begins on page 60.
Despite the touchy nature of his assignment, Maule was treated with hospitality. "I thought," he says, "that after Lausanne the attitude of the white South Africans would be to hell with everyone. But they were very friendly."
One of the few real difficulties with the assignment, in fact, was simply obtaining a visa. But once inside the country Maule had no problem at all. Over the years Tex has had some notable battles with track-and-field officials in places like Moscow and Madison Square Garden, but at the South African national championships he needed no special credentials at all. There was a standing-room-only crowd of 7,000 in the small stadium at Potchefstroom, but the main gate was manned by a young boy selling tickets at a table. He quickly passed Maule on inside when he learned that Tex was a journalist come to cover the meet. At the "press box" (another table at the edge of the track) Maule was given a small white card which said "Photographer" in Afrikaans and English, and he was able to wander freely about the infield, talking to whomever he chose. His visit to the nonwhite championships was just as smooth. He had full access to the athletes, and no one monitored his interviews.
Away from the tracks, things were not always so relaxing. In fact, Maule's assignment could well have ended abruptly in a lion park, outside Johannesburg. He and Photographer Gerry Cranham were driving through the park when Cranham spotted a lion sleeping under a tree. Gerry thought it would be a great idea to get a picture of Tex in close proximity to a real live king of the jungle. Somewhat hesitantly, Maule climbed out of the car and had sidled to within 20 yards or so of the sleeping beast when Cranham shouted at the lion to get him to look up. "I wanted some life in the scene," he explained later. The lion looked up, all right, and so did half a dozen others in the immediate vicinity. So did a contingent of alarmed guards, who raced over and ordered Maule back into the car. "These aren't pussycats, you know," shouted one. "They're lions, and they could eat you up. I couldn't care less if one did make a meal of you, except that if he did I'd lose my job."
Maule says, "I learned later that there was another park nearby that kept rhinos. I'm glad Cranham didn't find out about that, because if he had he probably would have had me go over and ride one."