Sports Illustrated's six-member Winter Olympic team arrived in Japan only a few days ago, but Senior Editor Bob Ottum and his crew have been living with, and around, the '72 Olympics for more than a year now. The first step was a trip to Sapporo last February for a story on the pre-Olympic dress rehearsal and to arrange for a place to live this year—it turned out to be a charming little eight-room Japanese inn—and to be sure that it contained such editorial necessities as telephones, ice cubes and 24-hour coffee service.
Bill Johnson, whose Olympic preview story begins on page 30, will provide most of the words that come to us from Sapporo, covering the scenes and sports he scouted last year. His main problem will be learning to use a typewriter perched just off the floor, Japanese style. Otherwise, Johnson is well prepared for three weeks of Japanese living, including raw squid for breakfast.
Writer-Reporter Nancy Williamson will be covering her third Winter Olympics. The only distaff member of this year's team, she also produced the scouting reports and predictions beginning on page 35. Her past handicapping has been remarkably accurate. Out of 35 events at Grenoble in 1968, for example, her selections won 14 gold, six silver and two bronze medals—a batting average of around .630. But picking medalists from 1,779 athletes is never easy, "and this year it was a nightmare," says Nancy. "In Alpine skiing I felt like I was picking candidates for a hospital ward rather than for Olympic medals." In a matter of days, three top skiers broke their legs and had to be removed from her medal lists and last week, after the Olympic preview story closed, America's young downhill whiz, Cindy Nelson, crashed and dislocated her hip. So much for advance planning.
Writer-Reporter Skip Myslenski, the only Olympic newcomer on the team, will concentrate on Nordic events and ice hockey. A bachelor who will celebrate his 27th birthday in Sapporo, he has one additional assignment that is perplexing him: "Some girl wants me to bring her back a pair of jade earrings," he says. "What color is jade, anyway, man? Green?"
The photography will be done by Neil Leifer and Jerry Cooke, plus Takeyoshi Tanuma, whose sensitive photo essays on Japanese sporting life have appeared in SI from time to time. It will be Cooke's fifth assignment to cover a Winter Olympics and Leifer's second.
In arranging his personal schedule around Sapporo, Editor Ottum had to face the fact that Feb. 11—in the middle of the Games—is the publication date of his new novel All Right, Everybody off the Planet! (Random House, Inc., $5.95). Bob takes philosophically the tough break of being out of town when his book appears. "Greater love hath no man than to miss his own publication day," he says with a tight smile.
Good show, Bob.
SI Olympians Myslenski, Ottum (seated), Cooke, Leifer, Williamson and Johnson.