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Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World

David Maraniss, Author
David Maraniss, Author Simon & Schuster $26 (478p) ISBN 978-1-4165-3407-5
Reviewed on: 04/21/2008
Release date: 07/01/2008
Paperback - 478 pages - 978-1-4165-3408-2
Book - 978-0-7435-7272-9
Paperback - 978-1-59413-313-8
Compact Disc - 978-0-7435-7271-2
Hardcover - 978-1-4104-0851-8
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-1-4391-0267-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-0597-6
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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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