Friday, February 12, 2010

Book Review: Rome 1960

For a good read on some Summer Olympic history, try Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World by David Maraniss.

The Pulitzer Prize winner also wrote Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero and When Pride Still Mattered : A Life Of Vince Lombardi.

What you'll find is a swift moving history of the waning weeks of summer in 1960 when the games played out in Rome. Who you'll find is a cast of Americans that include the young and energetic boxer, Cassius Clay; the noble decathlete Rafer Johnson; and the elegant sprinter Wilma Rudulph.

Also in this retelling of a transitive period in global sports during the Cold War adolescent period, you'll meet members of the Soviet Union team and the last unified German team.

You'll learn about the beginnings of steroids in sports and how geopolitical battles were contested not only on the field, but in the International Olympic Committee meetings as well.

Not to be out done by the East - West rivalry, the two Chinese get catty, not for the first nor last time.

There was also Abebe Bikila, a bare-footed, gold medal marathon runner from Ethiopa.

A most fascinating bit of history to offer my readers is the nugget that after these Olympics were concluded, Americans began to worry about their overall competitiveness and physical fitness.

The new President, John Kennedy, appointed a 'special consultant' to "make it clearly understood that the promotion of sports participation and physical fitness is a basic continuing policy of the United States." p. 386.

Soon schools were testing children across the country in athletic prowess.

Which reinforces my belief that Government can't really do much right. Its been 50 years since, while obesity and sloth have only gotten worse.

Fix health care? Good luck with that one.

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