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Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World Hardcover – July 1, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Amazon Best of the Month, July 2008: Armed with the same engaging narrative found in Clemente and When Pride Still Mattered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss chronicles the triumphs, tragedies, and treacheries of "the Olympics that changed the world" with Rome 1960. The same Games that announced the greatness of icons like Cassius Clay, Wilma Rudolph, and Rafer Johnson, also exposed a growing unrest between East and West, black and white, and male and female. Even the host city of Rome, Maraniss recounts, was "infused with a golden hue...an illuminating that comes with a moment of historical transition, when one era is dying and another is being born." With moving portraits of the Games's remarkable personalities woven among tales of espionage and propaganda, Rome 1960 explores an Olympics unable to fight off the troubles of the modern world. Cold War sniping and issues of social inequalities were spilling into fields and stadiums, and the face of sport was rapidly changing. History buffs and sports fans alike will appreciate Maraniss’s quiet reporting, as he deftly removes himself from a storyline that is still relevant today. --Dave Callanan

From Publishers Weekly

Overshadowed by more flamboyant or tragic Olympics, the 1960 Rome games were a sociopolitical watershed, argues journalist Maraniss (Clemente) in this colorful retrospective. The games showcased Cold War propaganda ploys as the Soviet Union surged past the U.S. in the medal tally. Steroids and amphetamines started seeping into Olympian bloodstreams. The code of genteel amateurism—one weight-lifter was forbidden to accept free cuts from a meat company—began crumbling in the face of lavish Communist athletic subsidies and under-the-table shoe endorsement deals. And civil rights and anticolonialism became conspicuous themes as charismatic black athletes—supercharged sprinter Wilma Rudolph, brash boxing phenom Cassius Clay, barefoot Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila—grabbed the limelight while the IOC sidestepped the apartheid issue. Still, we're talking about the Olympics, and Maraniss can't help wallowing in the classic tropes: personal rivalries, judging squabbles, come-from-behind victories and inspirational backstories of obstacles overcome (Rudolph wins the gold, having hurdled Jim Crow and childhood polio that left her in leg braces). As usual, these Olympic stories don't quite bear up under the mythic symbolism they're weighted with (with the exception perhaps of Abebe Bikila), but Maraniss provides an intelligent context for his evocative reportage. Photos. (July)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416534075
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416534075
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Anderson on July 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after hearing an interview with Maraniss on NPR. Normally, this isn't my kind of book. I'm not an athlete. I'm not a fanatic about the Olympics. I'd rather knit or read a cozy mystery that I can breeze through in a night. And yet, I love this book.

Each chapter is like a short essay on some facet of the 1960 Olympics: the controverial decision in the men's swimming event, the Tigerbelles' encounters with racisim on their road the Olympics, the political controvery between China and Taiwan, and more. Maraniss paints a picture of the world's political and social climate to show how those factors affected the 1960 Olympics and how the 1960 Olympics affected the world.

Each story is compelling--48 years later, I feel minor outrage that Lance Larson wasn't awarded the gold for men's swimming. I understand the terror Rafer Johnson must have felt outside of Lenin Stadium when the Russian crowd surged toward him after his defeat of Kuznetsov. Maraniss deftly captures the human stories and makes this reader care. I'm only 5 chapters into the book, but I wish I could skip work today to finish the rest of the book.

Before reading this book, I hadn't watched the Olympics in over 20 years. Now, I'm psyched for 2008 Summer Olympics!
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Format: Hardcover
The world is changing so fast right now that most of us can barely keep up with the daily news that affects our lives, jobs and future. So, it's a rare and wonderful treat when a book comes along that carries us back to a time and place when the world changed more slowly - to show us one of those events that truly did change our global culture. When such books come along, they're usually about wars - but not this new gem by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Maraniss.

Given my own background as a journalist, I'll confess that I was puzzled by Maraniss' decision in selecting "Rome 1960" for a thick new book of nearly 500 pages (that's counting all the extras at the end). As I picked up the book, I kept asking myself: Why did he call this particular meet -- "The Olympics that Changed the World"?

As a specialist in religion and culture, I've immersed myself in histories of other Olympics: the 1924 "Chariots of Fire" Olympics, the 1936 Nazi-dominated Olympics, the 1972 Olympics when terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes - and even the 1964 Tokyo Olympics that were a milestone in global culture in part because of Kon Ichikawa's historic documentary film.

But having read Maraniss' new book, I've got to agree - Rome in 1960 ranks right up there as a milestone in world culture.

I had not considered the roles of the major players who all collided in Rome that year - including the now-infamous anti-Semite and pro-Nazi American czar of the Olympics movement: Avery Brundage. If you don't find yourself drawn to "Sports" - but you are fascinated by 20th-Century history, especially the 1930s, Fascism and the Holocaust - this is a "must read" book for you.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Maraniss is a former reporter of the Washington Post and author of acclaimed biographies of Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi. He is a wonderful writer and storyteller. With the approach of the 2008 Summer Games, "Rome, 1960" takes us back to a simple era, without the terrorism threats, outrageous commerialism and non-stop TV coverage. The Cold War was the backdrop and the author weaves in the stories of the athletes, the familiar and the unfamiliar. I don't know that these Olympics changed the world as Mr. Maraniss argues (the 1968 Games in Mexico City or the Munich Games in 1972 have a better claim) but the world has changed since then.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not particularly fond, overall, of sports literature and normally do not read in this particular genre, although, I must admit I enjoy watching sports, follow various sports year by year, and indeed, have been an overall participant in various sports, all my life, more so when I was younger. The Olympic games have always occupied a special place for me and the 1960 Olympics was the first one that I became truly aware of what was going on. My age at the time and the fact that I actually was able to watch many of the vents on television had much to do with this. That being said, I will admit to being a history nut and this work by David Maraniss is a history as much as it is a work about a particular sport.

The 1960 Olympics was held at a time when the world was on the cusp of great change. Not only in the United States were these changes about to take place, but the entire world was on the edge, and we were beginning one of those periodic watershed eras that come along every so often. New nations in Africa were being formed. The old Colonial powers had gasped their last and were no more. Governments were changing, attitudes were changing and the world was just beginning to become wired. There were two super powers at that time, the United States and Russia. These two countries were locked in a war, the Cold War and this war was at its height. These Olympics held in Rome, had this struggle of ideas as a constant backdrop and its presents was quite significant. The two Germanys, for the first time, were acting as a single team; not having completely split as they would soon do and the entire contest was not only the United States v/s Russia, but it was East v/s West.
Racism, sexism and all the other old evils of this world were alive and well.
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