Literature: Rome 1960

Rome 1960:
The Olympics that Changed the World

by David Maraniss
Simon and Schuster, 2008

The Olympics: that once-every-four-years event for worldwide sports buffs and armchair enthusiasts to enjoy. During the past week, we’ve been reacquainting ourselves with the ins and outs of the uneven bars, the butterfly, and the execution of a perfect platform dive. Unsurprisingly, Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Maraniss’ new book published in July, Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World, has recently landed on the NYT Bestseller list in the nonfiction category.

While Maraniss’ book focuses on the eighteen days in 1960 when the Olympics were held in Rome, its stories of racial, cultural, and political battles remain familiar to us today. The 1960 Olympics were the first commercially televised Games, when doping scandals and sponsorship money were just starting to cloud the scene. The cold war was well underway, and Maraniss tells how American athletes like Wilma Rudolph, Rafer Johnson, and Cassius Clay emerged as this nation’s shining stars.

In short: Maraniss does an excellent job gathering together a host of inspirational stories in this book, and his knowledge of politics and history makes its best moments shimmer brighter than the gold medal dangling from a winning athlete’s neck.

To read my full-length review of David Maraniss’ Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World on the Contemporary Literature site, click here.


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