John’s Believe It Or Not… July 17th

In 1976 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Montréal Olympic Games. In 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shot down over Eastern Ukraine. In 1955 Disneyland opens. In 1938 “Wrong Way” Corrigan crosses the Atlantic. In 1975 Superpowers meet in space.

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John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

Oh-Oh…It’s Monday! Did you know…

* 1976 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Montréal Olympic Games. (In 1976, Montréal became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Games. The XXIst Olympiad, held from 17 July to 1 August 1976, included memorable performances from many athletes, including Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci and American decathlete Bruce Jenner. Although Canada did not win a gold medal at the Games, the Canadian team won 11 medals in total —more than double the number of medals won at each of the previous two Olympic Games. The Olympic facilities, while costly, became Montréal landmarks and many are still used for training and competition.

On 17 July 1976, at 3:00 p.m. more than 73,000 people gathered in the Olympic Stadium to take part in the Opening Ceremonies of the Montréal Olympics. The rituals began with the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip and Prince Andrew and by IOC president Lord Killanen and Commissioner of the Games Roger Rousseau.

This was followed by the procession of athletes into the stadium. After the Queen officially opened the Games, the Olympic flame was carried into the stadium by two 15-year-old athletes, Sandra Henderson from Toronto and Stéphane Préfontaine from Montréal, to the sounds of the Olympic Cantata written by Louis Chantigny.

In total, 6,084 athletes (1,260 women and 4,824 men) from 92 nations took part in the Olympic Games. However, this did not include athletes from 22 African countries that officially withdrew from the Games due to the sporting links between New Zealand and apartheid South Africa. The central issue was the refusal of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team (the All Blacks) was touring South Africa. (Due to its apartheid policies, South Africa itself was banned from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1992.) According to Kenyan foreign minister, James Osogo, the IOC decision not to ban New Zealand would give “comfort and respectability to the South African racist regime and encourage it to continue to defy world opinion.”
This meant the loss of over 440 competitors (173 from athletics alone), including world class runners like Filbert Bayi from Tanzania (who held the world record in the 1500m) and John Akii-Bua from Uganda (who held the world record in the 400 meters hurdles). Moreover, Montréal lost a million dollars in seat refunds and event cancellations in the first two days of the Games.)

Queen Elizabeth II has opened two Olympic Games
Queen Elizabeth II has opened two Olympic Games (NBC Olympics)

* 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is shot down over Eastern Ukraine. (Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down on 17 July 2014 while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. Contact with the aircraft, a Boeing 777-200ER, was lost about 50 km (31 mi) from the Ukraine–Russia border and wreckage of the aircraft landed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, 40 km (25 mi) from the border. The crash occurred in an area controlled by the Donbass People’s Militia during the Battle in Shakhtarsk Raion, part of the ongoing war in Donbass. The crash is the deadliest airliner shoot down and was Malaysia Airlines’ second aircraft loss during 2014 after Flight 370 on March 8.

In October 2015, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) concluded that the airliner was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from the pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine. In September 2016, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) confirmed the missile type which had downed the aircraft and said that the Buk missile system had been transported from Russia on the day of the crash, fired from a field in a rebel controlled area and returned to Russia after the Buk was used to shoot down MH17. The JIT had established the identities of approximately 100 people, witnesses or suspects, who were linked to the transporting of the Buk, but said that their evidence “must stand before a court”.

The DSB and JIT findings confirmed earlier claims by American and German intelligence sources and the Ukrainian government as to the missile type and launch area. In 2014, Ukraine and US intelligence had also said that Russia had supplied the Buk missile to pro-Russian insurgents, who had mistakenly shot down the aircraft. Also in 2014, German intelligence sources reported that they believed insurgents had stolen the missile from the Ukrainian military.

Russian government sources initially claimed that the aircraft was being followed by a Ukrainian military jet at the time of the shootdown and later that Ukraine was responsible since the crash had happened in Ukrainian airspace. Several theories about the crash have since appeared in Russian media, and as of September 2016, the Russian government continues to deny responsibility for the crash.

Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a body bag as pro-Russian fighters stand guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a victim’s body in a body bag as pro-Russian fighters stand guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. (Gawker)

* 1955 Disneyland opens. (Disneyland, Walt Disney’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opens on July 17, 1955. The $17 million theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million visitors a year, who spend close to $3 billion.

Walt Disney, born in Chicago in 1901, worked as a commercial artist before setting up a small studio in Los Angeles to produce animated cartoons. In 1928, his short film Steamboat Willy, starring the character “Mickey Mouse,” was a national sensation. It was the first animated film to use sound, and Disney provided the voice for Mickey. From there on, Disney cartoons were in heavy demand, but the company struggled financially because of Disney’s insistence on ever-improving artistic and technical quality. His first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), took three years to complete and was a great commercial success.

Snow White was followed by other feature-length classics for children, such as Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). Fantasia (1940), which coordinated animated segments with famous classical music pieces, was an artistic and technical achievement. In Song of the South (1946), Disney combined live actors with animated figures and beginning with Treasure Island in 1950 the company added live-action movies to its repertoire. Disney was also one of the first movie studios to produce film directly for television, and its Zorro and Davy Crockett series were very popular with children.

In the early 1950s, Walt Disney began designing a huge amusement park to be built near Los Angeles. He intended Disneyland to have educational as well as amusement value and to entertain adults and their children. Land was bought in the farming community of Anaheim, about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and construction began in 1954. In the summer of 1955, special invitations were sent out for the opening of Disneyland on July 17. Unfortunately, the pass was counterfeited and thousands of uninvited people were admitted into Disneyland on opening day. The park was not ready for the public: food and drink ran out, a women’s high-heel shoe got stuck in the wet asphalt of Main Street USA, and the Mark Twain Steamboat nearly capsized from too many passengers.

Disneyland soon recovered, however, and attractions such as the Castle, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Adventures, Space Station X-1, Jungle Cruise, and Stage Coach drew countless children and their parents. Special events and the continual building of new state-of-the-art attractions encouraged them to visit again. In 1965, work began on an even bigger Disney theme park and resort near Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney died in 1966, and Walt Disney World was opened in his honor on October 1, 1971. Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and the Animal Kingdom were later added to Walt Disney World, and it remains Florida’s premier tourist attraction. In 1983, Disneyland Tokyo opened in Japan, and in 1992 Disneyland Paris–or “EuroDisney”–opened to a mixed reaction in Marne-la-Vallee. The newest Disneyland, in Hong Kong, opened its doors in September 2005.)

Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle
Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle (3rbseyes.com)

* 1938 “Wrong Way” Corrigan crosses the Atlantic. (Douglas Corrigan, the last of the early glory-seeking fliers, takes off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, on a flight that would finally win him a place in aviation history.

Eleven years earlier, American Charles A. Lindbergh had become an international celebrity with his solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. Corrigan was among the mechanics who had worked on Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, but that mere footnote in the history of flight was not enough for the Texas-born aviator. In 1938, he bought a 1929 Curtiss Robin aircraft off a trash heap, rebuilt it, and modified it for long-distance flight. In July 1938, Corrigan piloted the single-engine plane nonstop from California to New York. Although the transcontinental flight was far from unprecedented, Corrigan received national attention simply because the press was amazed that his rattletrap aircraft had survived the journey.

Almost immediately after arriving in New York, he filed plans for a transatlantic flight, but aviation authorities deemed it a suicide flight, and he was promptly denied. Instead, they would allow Corrigan to fly back to the West Coast, and on July 17 he took off from Floyd Bennett field, ostentatiously pointed west. However, a few minutes later, he made an 180-degree turn and vanished into a cloud bank to the puzzlement of a few onlookers.

Twenty-eight hours later, Corrigan landed his plane in Dublin, Ireland, stepped out of his plane, and exclaimed, “Just got in from New York. Where am I?” He claimed that he lost his direction in the clouds and that his compass had malfunctioned. The authorities didn’t buy the story and suspended his license, but Corrigan stuck to it to the amusement of the public on both sides of the Atlantic. By the time “Wrong Way” Corrigan and his crated plane returned to New York by ship, his license suspension had been lifted, he was a national celebrity, and a mob of autograph seekers met him on the gangway.)

Corrigan posing with his plane.
The Adventures of Wrong-Way Corrigan (HistoryNet)

* 1975 Superpowers meet in space. (As part of a mission aimed at developing space rescue capability, the U.S. spacecraft Apollo 18 and the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19 rendezvous and dock in space. As the hatch was opened between the two vessels, commanders Thomas P. Safford and Aleksei Leonov shook hands and exchanged gifts in celebration of the first such meeting between the two Cold War adversaries in space. Back on Earth, United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim congratulated the two superpowers for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and praised their unprecedented spirit of cooperation and peace in planning and executing the mission.

During the 44-hour Apollo-Soyuz embrace, the astronauts and cosmonauts conducted experiments, shared meals, and held a joint news conference. Apollo-Soyuz, which came almost three years after the sixth and last U.S. lunar landing, was the final Apollo program mission conducted by NASA. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.)

April 1975: Cutaway view of the docked Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft, depicting the moment
April 1975: Cutaway view of the docked Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft, depicting the moment (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Canadian Encyclopedia               http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-montreal-olympics/

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport       http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today   http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

 

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

15 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 17th”

  1. Smiling about Disneyland as reading your words about it brought back great memories of our family trip when I was a gal 🙂 I didn’t realize Walt Disney World was a tribute to Walt Disney after he passed away. I heard the one in Japan is phenomenal! Another great post, John.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Indeed. They always had that mix of entertainment. I remember being dragged onstage to join a dance group – my daughter woke up, saw me onstage and asked her mom, “What’s Daddy doing up there?” LOL! My claim to fame.

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  2. A good mix of topics today John. I remember being in the Dominica Republic when the Malaysia flight was shot down and seeing it on the news there. So tragic.
    And I had no idea that Disney Land went back that far. I’m probably confusing it with Disney World in Florida (which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting along with MGM, Sea World and Epcot!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Disneyland was the original, Mae – back when I was little. Unfortunately, I never got to see it – or the newer one in Florida. When my kids were young, they built Canada’s Wonderland about 90 minutes away from us – so we took the kids once each summer. I hate the rides, but I enjoyed walking around all day and just watching them. Thanks for your thoughts, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

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