ATHENS TO ATHENS: The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC, 1894–2004

David Miller, Author . Mainstream $65 (528p) ISBN 978-1-84018-587-4

Miller's attempt to create a definitive monument to the Olympics by relating "the parallel evolution and history of both the administrators and the competitors" is a decidedly mixed bag. Across more than 350 pages, the veteran sports journalist alternates chapters about the IOC's often tumultuous between-the-games politicking with detailed descriptions of the competitions themselves (the appendices include more than 140 pages listing all IOC members and Olympic Games results). Almost every page features a fascinating athletic story. In the best chapters, such as the one dealing with the tragic 1972 Munich games, Miller shows a keen eye for how the games reflect the often-competing interests of the IOC, national and international federations, host cities and the media. He never shies from the games' many controversies; he is fierce in his criticism of athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs; and he pulls no punches when it comes to detailing the faults of former IOC presidents—Avery Brundage's anti-Semitism, Antonio Juan Samaranch's obsession with increasing the IOC's income. (It was Samaranch who encouraged Miller to write this book.) But too often his writing deteriorates into the kind of incessant editorializing found in crazed sports fanzines. He revels in catty comments about successful female athletes, especially those from the U.S.: gold medal skater Peggy Fleming had "stereotypical glamour," gold medal sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner "had much of the physical appearance of a man" and gold medal skater Sarah Hughes was "emotionally as barren as apple pie." Tiny type, small and poorly cropped photos and a layout reminiscent of an old Encyclopedia Britannica will try the patience of even diehard Olympic fans. (May)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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