17 October, 2014

Justice for Bob Hayes (at long last)

Those who follow this blog should have noticed by now that I am a big fan of Bob Hayes. You can easily imagine my joy when I happened upon a recent blog post by P-J. Vazel who, based on well-informed sources, was announcing that a major injustice done to B. Hayes will at last be (partly) repaired. (Unfortunately B. Hayes passed away in 2002 and thus it is too late for him to savour this recognition. In fact, this is not the only time something like this happened: he was posthumously inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, 7 years after his demise).

In my “Where is Bob Hayes” post I explain, albeit succinctly, the situation. At the time of the 1964, Tokyo, Olympics the world record of 100 m stood at 10.0 s, with  A. Harry, H. Jerome and H. Esteves sharing that record. The times were obtained by three manually operated chronometers, rounded to a tenth of a second, the middle of three times being selected as the official time. (Harry’s race was also recorded electronically at 10.25 s). Purely electronically registered records were homologated only starting from 1977. However, in Tokyo, it was decided that the times were to be registered electronically and converted to pseudo-manual times by rounding them to the closest tenth of a second! 

The official time of B. Hayes was 10.06 s (He had ran a wind-assisted 9.91 s in the semi-finals). It was rounded to 10.0 s and was considered as a tie of the standing record. On the other hand the three official timekeepers had registered 9.8, 9.9 and 9.9 s. So according to the rules valid at that time B. Hayes’ official time should have been 9.9 s. He would have been equalled only in 1968 by J.Hines (9.8, 9.9 and 10.0 s and an electronic time of 10.03 s), albeit registered at the more than 2 km altitude of Echo Summit. At sea level the electronic time of B. Hayes was equalled by Hasely Crawford in the Montreal, 1976, Olympics and beaten only 20 years later (C. Lewis: 9.99 s in the Los Angeles, 1984, Olympics).

In his blog P-J. Vazel questions the condition of B. Hayes’ lane 1 of the track, which, according to most columnists, was seriously damaged due to the event of race-walk, which was held prior to the 100m with its first kilometre run in the stadium. I beg to differ with M. Vazel. The tracks of that time, be they from crushed brick like the one of Tokyo, were far from resistant and I am convinced that Hayes had a substantial handicap racing in lane 1.

There is also a question of the interpretation of the photo-finish. Various people analysing the same image see times ranging from 9.98 s to 10.01 s (to which a correction, due to the hardware furnished by Seiko, of 0.05 s had to be added). No loud-speakers next to the starting blocks were used and so there is a handicap of 0.01 s that should have been subtracted from the time of Hayes.(I comment on the “presumed” advantage of B. Hayes due to his position closer to the starter’s gun in my post “On the absurdity of milliseconds”). I am convinced that the time of Bob Hayes is equivalent to a modern 9.85 s. Had he continued till the Mexico, 1968, Olympics, and barring injuries, he would have well been able to realise this, or even a better, time. 

So, from next year the official time of B. Hayes will be given 10.0 s and 9.9 s! Why on earth do things by half? Just so that people who have equalled the 10.0 s record after Hayes not feel frustrated? But they know perfectly well that Hayes was in a class of his own. It would be only justice, even with a 50 years’ delay, to render unto Hayes the record that is his. 

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