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.