ROSEMONT, Ill. — After an inauspicious start Friday night in New York, the traveling pole vault circus, which had been advertised as the greatest show on earth, came Sunday to the Rosemont Horizon.
Unfortunately for a Bally Invitational record crowd of 7,641, one of the three headliners, world indoor record-holder Billy Olson, stayed behind in New York.
So did the poles of one of the other headliners, Joe Dial, who, upon learning that he would have to borrow another vaulter's poles for the second straight meet if he wanted to compete, decided instead to go home to Oklahoma.
That left the center ring to the Soviet Union's Sergei Bubka, who was the only vaulter Sunday to clear 19 feet, winning with a jump of 19- 3/4. He failed in three attempts at 19-5 3/4, one quarter of an inch higher than Olson's world indoor record of 19-5 1/2.
Bubka performed considerably better than he did at the Millrose Games Friday night, when he did not clear a height.
He said Sunday that it was near the end of the competition here before he began to feel comfortable. He is accustomed to Tartan surfaces on the runways, which are common in Europe and Japan, instead of the plywood runways that are found on indoor tracks in the United States.
But he said he is optimistic that he will be able to make the adjustment by next weekend, when he jumps at the Times/GTE Indoor Games Friday night at the Forum and Sunday in the Michelob Invitational at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Olson has committed to jump in Los Angeles but is still negotiating with the San Diego meet director, Al Franken. Dial is expected to appear at both meets, but who knows about his poles?
For the pole vault, this was supposed to be the weekend that was, with three of the world's best meeting twice within 48 hours. Olson has broken the world indoor record four times since Dec. 28, Bubka twice and Dial once. Instead, it was a lost weekend.
No one was more frustrated than Dial, who began his incredible journey Thursday morning in Oklahoma City with seven custom-made poles. Because of his small stature--5-9, 155 pounds--he uses lighter poles than any other major competitor.
But during a layover in St. Louis, he had to ship his poles air freight because they were too long to fit on the airplane he was taking to New York.
He spent all day Friday searching for the poles. He was told at the New York airport that the poles were in St. Louis. But officials from the air freight company in St. Louis told him that the poles were in New York.
A short time before he was to leave for Madison Square Garden, he learned that the poles, which were in St. Louis, would be shipped to New York. The estimated arrival time was 11 p.m., five hours after the pole vault competition was to begin at Madison Square Garden.
In order to compete, Dial borrowed the poles of a competitor, but they were too heavy. He didn't clear a height in four attempts.
The fact that he and Olson each had four attempts instead of the normal three before either had any success was the source of controversy that threatened to develop into an international incident.
Meet officials ruled that Dial and Olson were interfered with by photographers on their second attempts at 18-4 3/4. But they did not allow an extra attempt by Sergei's brother, Vasily, who also claimed interference on his third attempt at that height.
As a result, Sergei began packing his poles and announced he was withdrawing from the competition. In order to appease him, meet officials gave him an extra jump. Then, another American, Brad Pursley, demanded an extra jump and was granted one.
The only one who benefited from the extra jumps was Olson, who won the competition at 19-0.
"No wonder Olson sets so many records," said Bubka, who still was protesting the officiating in New York after arriving Saturday in Chicago.
He and others in the Soviet delegation had a meeting scheduled for Sunday night here to discuss their complaints in New York with John Jackson of The Athletics Congress, the national governing body for track and field.
Meantime, Dial was still searching for his poles.
Even though they were supposed to arrive in New York later Friday night, they did not actually get there until Saturday afternoon.
By that time, Dial already was in Chicago.
After several calls, he was assured that his poles would be at O'Hare Airport early Sunday morning. But when they still had not arrived by the time the meet began, Dial arranged to have the poles sent to Oklahoma City and went home to wait for them.
As for Olson, he had a commitment to compete here until last Thursday when his manager, Tom Jennings of the Pacific Coast Club, informed meet director Mike Musca that the vaulter was tired and would not make a decision until after the Millrose Games whether he would jump here.
Musca, the Northwestern track coach, said he had no argument with that. He said he didn't want to pay an appearance fee, estimated at $5,500, if Olson didn't feel he was fit to jump.