Despite the ridiculous plethora of world records set at the just recent FINA World Swimming Championships in Rome, the entirety of the overall aquatic competitions was both historic and exciting for viewers in the USA. Thanks, in great part, to NBC/Universal Sports’ outstanding coverage.*
Nearly 50 years ago, the city of Rome played host
to the world for the XVII Olympiad. David Maraniss book on
these Olympic Games tells many stories that show how these events
fit into the climate of the world by taking us through the
scheduled events nearly day by day.
Though the emphasis of his writing is somewhat
focused on the track and field participants of Decathlete Rafer
Johnson and Sprinter Wilma Rudolph and her Tigerbelle teammates,
(note the results section), the other Olympic events and
competitors are far from ignored.
Swimmers with stories or anecdotes shared include
Hall of Famers Lynn Burke, John DeVitt, Jeff Farrell, Dawn Fraser,
Jon Hendricks, Eleanor Holm, Lance Larson, Frank McKinney, Bill
Mulliken, Dick Roth, Mike Troy, Donna de Varona, Chris von Saltza
and Anne Warner.
Legendary USA coach Peter Daland figures into the
‘infamous’ story surrounding the finish of the
men’s 100 meter Freestyle between the Aussie DeVitt and the
American Larsen. And though the USA women’s swim team
tore it up it the pool, their post Olympic flame was somewhat
extinguished by an immediate return to the States.
Besides the Olympic cornerstone sports of swimming
and track & field, ROME 1960 also gave us highlights
in many other sports and many now famous athletes such as a very
young Cassius Clay and a basketball team from the USA that included
Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas.
The 1960 Olympics were the first to be televised
on a world wide basis — though the coverage, as one might
imagine (or maybe even remember), was far from the hundreds of
hours of taped and ‘live’ coverage that we were able to
watch last summer from Beijing.
Rome also brought about the first doping scandal
of the modern Olympics (though there have been reports of drug use
back to the ‘36 Games in Berlin). Amateurism was
beginning to lose its standard as the Dassler brothers of
adidas and Puma lured athletes to wear their
shoes on the track. Athletes from the Eastern Bloc seemingly did
not have to hold ’real’ jobs while they trained and
Other larger social and political clouds also hung
over the Rome Olympic Games. Racism was still very apparent
and widespread in the USA. The cold war was in full swing
between the USA and Russia. There was a dispute over the two
Chinas. West and East Germany competed as a unified team less than
a year before the building of the Berlin Wall.
ROME 1960...The Olympics that changed the
ROME 1960...a grand success that you will want to read as a
fan of swimming, sport and/or the Olympics.
*With NBC/Universal Sports broadcast of the
Super League Finals in June, the re-showing of both the men’s
and women’s final games from ’Beijing and many games
during the first week of coverage from the World Championships in
Rome, it marked the most television coverage of the sport of water
polo in history. Ditto that during the first week of coverage
for the sports of synchronized swimming and open water