Otis Davis honored at Oregon, 60 years after Olympic titles

Otis Davis
University of Oregon Track and Field
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When Otis Davis visited his alma mater, the University of Oregon, over the weekend, the place he best recognized was his old dormitory.

Davis was a small-forward-sized guard on the basketball team in 1958, when he peered out of a third-floor window and saw two men doing laps at Hayward Field.

“To me, they looked slow. But they were distance runners, and they were running on pace,” Davis, 88, said by phone Saturday morning. “I said, I could beat those guys. That’s when I went to see Coach Bowerman.”

Davis, who served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War before enrolling at Oregon, approached the soon-to-become legendary coach — Bill Bowerman — and asked if he could join the track team.

“[Bowerman] said, ‘What do you do?'” Davis remembered. “I said, ‘What do you need?’ I’m so glad he didn’t say pole vault.”

Two years later, Davis won the Olympic 400m title in world-record time in Rome. Sunday marked the 60th anniversary of that final and an indelible photo finish between Davis and silver medalist Carl Kaufmann of Germany, who was given the same time of 44.9 seconds.

Davis was honored at Oregon in conjunction with the anniversary. He visited the remodeled Hayward Field, which includes a 10-story tower with individual floors honoring the track and field program’s eight Olympic champions. Davis was the first.

The exterior of the tower depicts five icons from the program’s history, one of which is Davis, along with Bowerman and an unnamed athlete.

“First of all, I said, who is that handsome guy?” Davis joked upon seeing his image, speaking in a video released by the Oregon track and field program. “I didn’t know I looked that good. I’m just glad they thought of me that way, putting me up there.”

Back in 1960, Davis said that he was still learning lane-running tactics when he arrived in the Italian capital for the Games. But one key thing he knew — when crossing the finish line, it’s the chest that counts and not one’s hands or head.

That’s why he knew he had beaten Kaufmann, whom he saw in his peripheral vision as they finished together. The German was hitting the line with his mouth.

“I was breaking the tape with my torso,” Davis said.

Otis Davis
University of Oregon Track and Field

Davis won another gold medal with the 4x400m relay, also in a world record (one of his two golds was later stolen). He retired in 1961.

“I didn’t figure I could do anything else, and I had to go to work,” he said. “They didn’t pay any money [for track] or anything.”

He later moved to New Jersey and worked as a teacher, guidance counselor and mentor.

Davis reflected while sitting inside the new Hayward Field about everything he overcame to become a champion on and off the track.

He was born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., near the University of Alabama, which did not desegregate until after Davis enrolled at Oregon and won his Olympic gold medals.

“Psychologically, I’m telling you, I thought I was running away from all of that negative stuff,” Davis said. “People saying that you weren’t as good as they were because they didn’t even know you, because you might look different from them, which is totally absurd, and that’s what the problems we’re having now.

“I was working against all of that bitterness and the hatred and the second-class citizenship.”

When Davis first joined the Oregon track team, he was a high jumper. He also did the long jump and ran the 100 yards before settling into the 400m, where he was third at the 1960 Olympic Trials.

“They said, oh, he’s a natural,” Davis said, “but even a natural has to learn how to run.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

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Sweden weighs 2030 Winter Olympic bid after IOC meeting

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Sweden’s Olympic leaders are weighing up whether to bid for the Winter Games in 2030.

The Nordic country’s potential entry into the race to stage the 2030 Games comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee has delayed the process and is searching around for more contenders to host the event.

Sapporo, Japan, was considered the favorite before an ongoing bid-rigging scandal related to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo held in 2021. Salt Lake City is the only other known bidder that might consider taking 2030, though officials have said they favor a bid for 2034.

A joint Stockholm-Are bid from Sweden lost out to another shared bid, from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, to stage the Winter Games in 2026 amid a lack of clear public support in Sweden and some government upheaval at local and national level in the run-up to the vote.

There was reportedly discontent in Stockholm over how the Swedish bid was treated in the contest for the 2026 Games.

The Swedish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and the Swedish Sports Confederation will start a feasibility study for 2030, they said Wednesday. A report from the study will be presented on April 20.

“These are new times now and the feasibility study will show how the Olympics and Paralympics can be shaped based on Sweden’s conditions,” said Anders Larsson, acting chairman of the Swedish Olympic Committee. “We already have virtually all the arenas required to arrange the largest Winter Games.”

The committee’s secretary general, Åsa Edlund Jönsson, said the 2030 Games “could be a campfire to rally Sweden around.”

“The idea is to review the concept that existed for the candidacy in 2026, which would mean competitions in several places in Sweden,” Jönsson said, specifically referencing Stockholm and the regions of Dalarna and Jämtland. “Here we feel confident that there is great experience in arranging world-class winter championships in the Swedish sports movement.”

The Stockholm-Are bid for 2026 even included plans to stage ice-sliding sports across the Baltic Sea at a venue in Latvia to avoid building a white elephant venue in Sweden — a key demand of IOC reforms to cut Olympic hosting costs.

The idea of Sweden potentially joining the 2030 race came up at a meeting in Lausanne in January.

“We have had a meeting with the IOC that was about, without obligation from any quarter, looking at the Games in 2030,” Larsson said. “During that meeting, it was clear that the IOC liked our concept for 2026. What the feasibility study will provide answers to is whether we are ready to move forward in the process.”

Sweden hosted the Summer Olympics in 1912 but never a Winter Games, despite the country being an established giant in winter sports.

It has made eight failed bids to stage the Winter Games.

Gunilla Lindberg, who is on the Swedish Olympic Committee, is also an IOC member and on its panel tasked with finding potential future hosts for the Winter Games.

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USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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