“Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World”

January 27, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Posted in History, Nonfiction | Leave a comment

Rome 1960, by David Maraniss, brings alive the Olympics of that year, which turned out to be a watershed event for several historical trends.

Maraniss’s writing makes the material accessible, even for someone like me, who knows virtually nothing about sports or athletics.

The 1960 Olympics brought performance-enhancing drugs into the spotlight for the first time, with the death of a Danish cyclist.  The 1960 games also introduced legendary boxer Cassius Clay, later to become Muhammad Ali.  Race issues were very controversial, as the US still had not eliminated segregation, subjecting us to deserved ridicule from the Soviets.  Post-WWII reconstruction was still underway, and the Cold War was a full-fledged blizzard.  African nations began to shake off the yoke of colonialism.  Women began to make names for themselves as serious world-class athletes.

Rome 1960 provides a fascinating angle on an eventful moment in history.  It also gives a fresh, lively account of some incredible athletic triumphs, including Abebe Bikila’s barefoot marathon win, which alone makes the book worth a read.


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