Washington, D.C., or any other future host city will have a hard time topping the drama and excitement that surrounded the fifth National Sports Festival, which ended here Sunday night.
The twin world sprint records 15 minutes apart by Evelyn Ashford and Calvin Smith at the Air Force Academy track on Sunday were the most fitting ending possible to 12 days of outstanding sports competition watched by large and appreciative crowds.
When Ashford and Smith competed, more than 15,500 persons ringed the track from every possible vantage point. The attendance of 34,500 for the three days of competition was phenomenal, considering the absence of many top athletes.
More than 200,000 persons paid more than $700,000 to watch 33 sports and the Air Force Academy Fieldhouse was the site of five straight sellouts of more than 7,000, one for boxing and four for gymnastics.
Attendance was remarkable at sports such as diving, synchronized swimming, volleyball, wrestling, roller skating and team handball, few of which normally draw sizable crowds. Not only were the crowds knowledgeable, but they were also supportive, applauding the efforts of virtually every competitor.
Colorado Springs is one of 11 cities that has asked to hold the festival in 1985, 1986 and 1987--there will be none in 1984 because of the Olympic Games. It is likely this beautiful city in the shadow of Pikes Peak will continue to be the host at least once in each quadrennial.
"We would like to hold the Sports Festival in towns where it is the premier event and won't get lost among the other things the city may be holding," said F. Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Whether Washington will become a site for the festival is questionable, considering the humidity of the summer and the abundance of other activities in the area. Miller said that Mayor Barry's office had contacted the USOC about the possibility of holding the festival in Washington and added that the city would receive full consideration.
Although the Ashford and Smith records brought the festival publicity of an unmatched nature, there were remarkable performances here in other sports as well. Greg Louganis' double victory in diving, Jeff Kostoff's swimming triple, Scott Johnson's seven gymnastics medals, Bruce Baumgartner's super heavyweight wrestling sweep and Jeff Michels' collection of super heavyweight lifting records all were special to those who saw them.
In all, 2,700 athletes turned up to contest the 33 sports. Some sports drew the best athletes in the United States because the festival served as trials for the Olympics and the Pan American Games. Olympic teams were selected here in ice hockey and women's field hockey, while Pan American selections were made in diving, boxing, wrestling, soccer and men's field hockey.
Officials were gratified the festival turned a profit for the second straight year. The festival never will become an internal Olympics, with all the best athletes competing, and there is no reason why it should.
Superstars like Edwin Moses, world record holder in the 400 meter hurdles, are needed to capture public interest, but the festival's major contribution is the development of younger talent.
David Neel, a gymnastics coach, perhaps said it best after Jinny Rhee of Silver Spring, Md., performed unexpectedly well to win the all-around bronze medal.
"One of the good things about the festival is that while superstars always get recognized, sometimes someone like Jinny pops up," Neel said.