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Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  741 ratings  ·  129 reviews
"There was a deep meaning to those late-summer days at the dawn of the sixties. Change was apparent everywhere. The world as we know it was coming into view." Rome saw the first doping scandal, the first commercially televised Summer Games, the first athlete paid for wearing a certain brand of shoes. There was increasing pressure to provide equal rights for blacks and wome ...more
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Published July 1st 2008 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2008)
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Alden
When David Maraniss finished his much-praised biography of baseball superstar Roberto Clemente (Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero), he was "determined not to write another sports book anytime soon." He had previously written a highly regarded biography of perhaps the greatest football coach of all time, Vince Lombardi (When Pride Still Mattered), so his feeling was: been there, done that.

Besides, during a 30-year career at the Washington Post, Maraniss had developed a reput
...more
Diane
As something of a serious Olympics follower, I really enjoyed this book. The author makes a good case in that the '60 Olympics were something of a watershed in civil rights (at least in bringing the inequalities of the races to light more clearly), the cold war, the beginning of steroid use and doping in a systematic way, as well as the beginning of the recognition by athletes that being amateur in the US was very different than elsewhere. I enjoyed learning about various competitors as well tho ...more
Elizabeth K.
I must still have lingering Olympic fever from this summer. The author goes through the Rome Olympics, pretty much day by day, and highlights the significant events and puts them in the context of what was going on in the world at large ... so for the most part, the Cold War. Headlines include decathlete Rafer Johnson, the first African-American athlete to be the flagbearer during the opening ceremonies and Wilma Rudolph getting gold medals; the first big Olympic drug scandal when Danish cyclist ...more
Charlie Newfell
A whole book on one Olympics? An one that wasn't memorable? Excuse my ignorance, as this beautifully written book delves into what was truly the first "modern" Olympics. It was the first one televised in the USA, even if it was videotape sent overnight on commercial airliners. Jim McKay's first one also, who sat typing his own script in NYC to accompany those videotapes. The first one where doping was a major concern. It mostly, however iwas a product of its time. The Cold War was at its height ...more
Dan
I was really into track & field in 1960 and still somewhat in to swimming (having been bounced out of the Santa Clara Swim Club at age 10 for insubordination), so I knew many of the players here and thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the events. Maraniss recounts these well, and I was caught up in the drama of cliff-hanging competition even when I already knew the results. He is far less successful with the historical context (pop history of the Cold War, ponderous history of the Olympic ...more
Conor O'mahony
Well put together book detailing the athletics wart between the USA and USSR from 1958 to the 1960 Olympics. Really interesting to remember how much the cold war was influencing every aspect of life for people, to remember how prevalent racism was and the losing battle to keep the games amateur.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
A very interesting, and sometimes very funny, read.

In 1960, the Olympics were at a cusp, between "amateur" and "shamateur," colonialism and the new states of Africa and Asia, assumptions and achievements. The stars of the show? Wilma Rudolph, Rafer Johnson, Cassius Clay. Would-be defectors, egomaniac athletes, east-west competition, paranoid ex-spies, and the gross hypocrisy of Avery Brundage.

Track and field gets the most time, but swimming, diving, boxing, cycling, basketball, and weightliftin
...more
Jim
Sep 25, 2008 Jim rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with interest in Olympics
Recommended to Jim by: book rebview
Entertaining and informative

I think that this Olympics took place at a time when things were changing in the world but I don't think the author makes a good case that the 1960 Olympics changed the world

still very informative and detailed description of all the people involved in the Rome Olympics including Mohammed Ali/Wilma Rudolph

total TV money paid for rights to broadcast 1960 Rome Olympics

$60K - that's it.
Michael Griswold
David Maraniss billed the Rome 1960 Olympics as “The Olympics That Stirred The World”, I echo the sentiments of another reviewer who argued that it was in fact the world that changed around an Olympics. That is a rather minor quibble with an otherwise excellent overview of the Rome Olympics. For Olympics nerds like myself, there’s all the sports action that one could want from track and field to swimming and basketball. Yet, one gets the discernible impression that sports itself changed within t ...more
Jerry Smith
I may come back and re-rate this book if, after the passage of time, 2 stars seems a little harsh. However the categorization of 2 stars: "It was OK" seems to sum this up for me. There is nothing offensive about the book, I just found it a little ho-hum and so I had better explain what I mean. I was still glad I read it, but overall I was disappointed.

First of all, the overall tenet of the book seems to me, to be something of a reach. I don't think that the case for this Olympics necessarily cha
...more
Ian
I've had this book on my "to read" list for a couple of years. I thought it would be interesting to read around the time of the London Olympics. Some of the major figures I was familiar with (Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali), Wilma Rudolph, and Rafer Johnson), but so many stories I didn't know about. The 1960 Rome Olympics has several interesting plots - the rise of the Soviet Union as an Olympic power (this is the height of the Cold War, complete with attempts by the CIA to convince a Soviet lon ...more
CD
Apr 28, 2011 CD rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sport, history, and political buffs
1960 in Rome might be called the beginning of the modern drug era in sports. It also might be called birthplace of sports broadcasting and the start of the mega business that sport became worldwide in the later part of the 20th Century.

Author/journalist David Maraniss covers this summer from over 50 years ago like it was last week. The names and connections important to sport, such as Avery Brundage, to those connected to the greater culture as well as sport, such as Muhammed Ali, abound in the
...more
Melissa
What I liked was the attention to detail in the book, as the author took it day by day, journalling events to put you in the action. He introduced me to Rafer Johnson, the beginning of the Kenyan/African marathon dominance, and the rest of the Tigerbelles; I have always loved Wilma Rudolph's story, but I enjoyed knowing more.

I was raised during the Cold War, but it's been 20 years since the US vs. USSR so it was startling to read and remember the competition for superiority. It cheered me to se
...more
Ice
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Steve
Sports and politics in the same book that David Maraniss composed brilliantly. I had just turned four years old when the 1960 Olympics were held. I have a love of the Games and learned in later yers about 1960 Olympians Rafer Johnson, Abeke Bikila, Wilma Rudolph, Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) and the US hoops trio of Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Oscar Robertson.



But there were other wonderful stories about these games -- the first that really matched Cold War powers against each other, showed a divi
...more
Allison
We think of the Olympics as a time where the world stops for two weeks and just enjoys the competition. But the Olympics are just that, a competition. And the countries involved use the Olympics to fight their battles in a new forum.

Previous Olympics had been about the host cities showing themselves off to the world. These Olympics were about countries proving themselves to the world.

20 years before the Miracle on Ice, the Soviets and Americans were battling it out on the track. Some of the fir
...more
Driftless
I think it is fair to say that I am not the only victim of the quadrennial affliction known as “Olympic Fever”. I’m sure that I am not alone in reporting that I watch televised diving, pole vaulting and rowing only once every four years, often neglecting essentials like hygiene and sleep to do so. It is almost a truism to point out that the Olympics has captured the imagination and passion of both athletes and non-athletes alike and has become a unique institution that seemingly cuts across all ...more
Tyler
Synopsis: The Rome Olympics of 1960 were held when the world was in a transitory state. The Cold War was at its height, it was the first time that many of the Olympic competitions allowed women to compete and the United States (and much of the world) was in the midst of a racial revolution. While many of the athletes representing the United States were African Americans who were celebrated when they won, there were many restaurants and other places where they were prohibited due to the color of ...more
Justin
Rome 1960 is more than a book about sports. It looks at the unique place that the modern Olympics has in today’s world and uses the 1960 Games as a prism through which to examine the changing world of the 1960s. Maraniss couldn’t have picked a better games to do so. It was a Games high on drama on the field that took place during a turning point of world history, one that played out across the Games. It was a Games set against the Cold War. It featured the first real doping Olympic doping scanda ...more
Emily
Sep 20, 2008 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Olympic fans
Now with the Beijing Olympics over, it was fun to read about the history that got us to this point. Some things seemed quite familiar. In 1960, the US and USSR used every medal as a cold war victory. Now almost 50 years later we follow the US/ China medal counts closely, and complain that our communist adversary has an advantage in central sports planning when we don’t win. Other things, like the size and scope, amount of money involved, and the level of technology in use, make the 1960 Olympics ...more
Kiah
A really well written, very narrative history of the Olympics in 1960 in Rome. Spends a lot of time discussing many of the underlying stories from those Olympic games, such as the ongoing Cold War competition between the US and Russia/USSR, the China/Taiwan issue, how race relations played a part both with the South African team (which didn't have any African American participants on the team) and the US team (tho Cassius Clay, Wilma Rudolph and many other African Americans were winning gold for ...more
Mike Smith
These Games were fascinating due both to their unique sociopolitical landscape and the athletic drama that captivates the world at each Olympiad. Unfortunately the writing does not reach the same level of achievement. The facts are presented, but the editorializing adds little because of its heavy handed tone that lacks nuance and seems to merely gloss the events in broad themes, feeling very repetitive and preachy by the end. If you are already aware of the results in Rome, this telling would s ...more
Candice
Aug 31, 2008 Candice rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want a good overview of a bygone Olympics and a bygone era
An excellent overview of the Olympics that ushered in a big change. The first televised games, the first drug scandal, athletes beginning to chafe at the restrictions of "amateurism", East-West propaganda and more. Then there were the people who became household names because of the Rome Olympics, such as TV sports announcer Jim McKay.

The author focused on a few athletes and other prominent figures in depth, as well as the Games in general. Wilma Rudolph, Rafer Johnson and his friend and competi
...more
Socraticgadfly
A very good book about this Olympics. With so much to cover.

The hypocrisy of Avery Brundage, first on display toward overlooking the Nazis' anti-Semitism at Berlin in 1936, now overlooks question about whether Soviet-bloc state-sponsored sport violates the spirit, or even the letter, of amateurism.

First, and already known to me ...

Ethopian Abebe Bikela winning the marathon in the capital city of the nation that conquered his 25 years before.

One of the greatest decathlon duels ever.

The atmosphere
...more
Catherine
This book is AMAZING. You should read it if you like any of the following: sports, the Olympics, America, underdog stories, and/or good books in general. I'm not a big sports fan but I get sucked into the Olympics every two years, hearing the stories about the athletes overcoming obstacles both large and small to live their moment of Olympic glory. It blows my mind every time I see an event to think about how these people train their whole lives for a chance to compete in a contest that may only ...more
Jeni Enjaian
Even though the narrator wasn't the best possible choice, I absolutely loved this book. It appealed to everything I love best: history, Olympics, and sport(running). I found myself fascinated throughout the book. Not only did I want there to be a summer Olympics staged right now but I also wanted (and still want) a book like this to be written about every Olympics. On a technical note, the author did not begin and end the book with the opening and closing ceremonies. Instead he gave appropriate ...more
Neil
Maraniss blends history and the drama of sports well in this book, capturing the drama of the era very well. My only mild disappointment is that this book suffers from the same problem that coverage of the olympics on television usually has: not enough attention to sports in which Americans aren't competitive.

Still, there's plenty to marvel at here, and the events that Maraniss does cover don't suffer from a slant toward the athletes of any particular nation. Wilma Rudolph, Rafer Johnson, Cassiu
...more
Bap
IU thought this would be part of my Italy reading blitz bit it was almost all about the summer Olympics and very little of the venue. The 1960 Olympics featured Rafer Johnson who won the decathalon and who 8 years later would cradle a dying RFK in his arms after wrestling the gun from his assasin. Cassius Clay. Wilma Rudolf and her band of woman sprinters from Tennessee State. It was cold war by proxy and the Russians beat the Americans. It was the start of the steroid era with a Dane cyclist co ...more
Rich
An interesting read. The book addresses the athletic accomplishments of many (including the 18 year old boxer who would become Mohammed Ali) with a look back on the athlete’s beginnings and in many cases their end. The cold war was at its peak and US and Communist nations used the Rome Olympics to espouse their ideology. Amateurism was a farce for much of the world yet an ideal that the Olympic leadership adamantly hung onto.

Of special interest was the challenge the US had in touting democratic
...more
Paula
This is a great history lesson on the condition of the world in 1960 set against the backdrop of the Olympics in Rome. Famous names such as Wilma Rudolph, Cassius Clay, Raifer Johnson and others who garnered medals at these Olympics are all the more meaningful for having heard their individual stories. The second-class status of women and blacks reflected the politics of the time. For example, Wilma Rudolph was treated as a star and earned the respect of the Italian people, along with people fro ...more
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Rome 1960 Web site 1 16 May 21, 2008 11:48AM  
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David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and the author of four critically acclaimed and bestselling books, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, They Marched Into Sunlight War and Peace, Vietnam and America October 1967, and Clemente The Passion and Grace of Baseballs Last Hero. He is also the author of The Clinto ...more
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When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967 First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton Barack Obama: The Story

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