A few hundred feet away, at the World's Fair, thousands of persons wait impatiently in seemingly endless lines for a bit of food, drink or entertainment in exchange for a steady outlay of dollars.
The queue rarely reaches two at the University of Tennessee's Athletic Department, ticket seller for the 94th TAC/USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships that open a three-day run Friday morning at the Tom Black Track.
Only 500 season tickets at $16 or $12 have been sold for the track meet, this week's officially designated entertainment side show at the fair. Sponsoring officials, however, are hoping enough fair goers grow weary of the struggle and opt for a seat in the stands to strain the 10,000 capacity for the big days Saturday and Sunday.
In the only other major track meet held here, the 1969 NCAA championships, crowds of 10,000 were the rule. A late-1960s dual meet with Villanova, matching hurdlers Richmond Flowers and Erv Hall, attracted 9,000. But track has been a hard sell here recently, with 2,500 about the limit at the annual Tom Black and Dogwood meets, and most of them students at cut-rate prices.
If fans are in short supply, there is an abundance of big-name competitors for these national championships. Virtually every healthy American athlete is here, along with such Cuban visitors as Alberto Juantorena, of 1976 Olympic double gold medal fame, and Luis Delis, who has been threatening the world discus record all spring.
Thirty-eight titles, 19 for each sex, will be decided in the next three days, along with the disposition of $60,000 offered by the sponsoring Mobil Oil Co. in 15 Grand Prix events.
Highlight of the opening day is the triple jump final, with Willie Banks going for a third straight title and trying to better the American record of 57-7 1/2 he set in last year's meet at Sacramento.
Other finals Friday will include the men's 20-kilometer walk and three women's events--10,000-meter run, 5,000-meter walk and 1,600-meter relay.
The steeplechase qualifying features Henry Marsh, the world's best, and John Gregorek, the recent Georgetown graduate who placed second in the 1,500 meters in the NCAA meet but who returns to the steeple here to get a crack at Marsh.
Mary Decker Tabb has a 1,500-meter qualifying test Friday, but it figures to be no more of a bother than the final, as she has no peer outside Eastern Europe. Tabb's goal is a meet record, modest considering that she has run seven seconds faster than Francie Larrieu's 1979 standard of 4:06.6.
James Robinson will take the first step toward an unprecedented fifth straight 800-meter title with the first of three rounds in that event. Domination of field events in this meet is common enough--Dorothy Dodson leads the list with 11 javelin titles in a row from 1939-49--but on the track such a feat is rare, and Robinson is the only man to capture the 800 four straight.
The top two American finishers in most events will qualify for berths on the U.S. team that will face Africa and West Germany in Durham, N.C., June 26-27; the Soviet Union in Indianapolis July 2-3, and East Germany in Karl Marx-Stadt July 9-10.