Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Book Report

Just finished a fascinating book: Rome 1960 by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss.

It's about the Rome Olympics (Rafer Johnson, Cassius Clay, Wilma Rudolph, etc.), and if you (like me) remain fascinated by the Olympics, it's a terrific read. I'm looking forward to our scheduled interview with Maraniss in a couple of weeks.

Maraniss argues that the Rome Games were significant because they presaged several future trends:
  • Doping (a cyclist's death during the Games was traced to a performance-enhancing drug)
  • The "shoe wars" (German gold-medal sprinter Armin Hary was apparently taking cash from adidas and/or Puma)
  • The collapse of "amateurism" (old coot Avery Brundage's crowd was losing its steely grip on sports)
  • The rise of the female superstar (Wilma Rudolph leading the way)
  • TV's grip on the Games (Jim McKay anchored CBS coverage out of New York)
  • The Cold War (battles over Taiwan and Germany, as well as an attempt to get a Soviet star to defect)

Along the way, there's some tasty detail about Rafer, Cassius, Wilma, and some other athletes whose stories may have faded away but still make fascinating reading: Dave Sime, Abebe Bikila, Ray Norton, Lee Calhoun.

Terrific book, and it will make a nice antidote to what you already know will be over-the-top TV coverage of this summer's Beijing Olympics.

No comments: