Olympics and History of the Modern Games United States and Italy in 1960

About the olympics and the modern games, account of the games in Italy and the United States in 1960.


Speed skaters Lydia Skoblikova, a 21-year-old blonde, and Yevgeny Grishin paced the Soviet Union to the unofficial title by a landslide. Carol Heiss and David Jenkins (younger brother of '56 champion Hayes Alan Jenkins) won figure-skating titles for the U.S.

The U.S. hockey team amazingly defeated Canada, and then Russia for the championship after the Russian captain, in a dressing-room visit during an early-round game, gestured that the players should inhale oxygen.

A new event, the biathlon, was added; it combines cross-country skiing and marksmanship over a 20-km. course. One 2-minute penalty is added for each miss.

Walt Disney headed the pageantry committee for the Squaw Valley games, which were highly successful despite European skepticism before the games.


The Roman Olympic Organizing Committee made a deal with the Association of Roman Thieves not to engage in street thefts, and during the games, complaints of pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and holdups were at a low. International goodwill was high since Soviet and U.S. athletes had come to know one another, having competed in each other's country.

The decathlon boiled down to a duel between close friends, Rafer Johnson, U.S., and Yang Chuan-kwang, Formosa, both students at UCLA. Yang beat Johnson in all 6 running events, but Johnson was so much better in the field events that he was ahead when they started the last event, the 1,500-m. run. Yang needed to win by at least 10 seconds, as he had often done before. Johnson doggedly stayed close. Yang won by only 1.2 seconds and Johnson set a new Olympic decathlon mark, 8,392 points, 58 more than Yang-Johnson, after a brief movie career, went to work for the U.S. People-to-People Foundation.

American track efforts were disappointing, but Don Bragg vaulted 15'5 1/8", well above the old record:

All I ever really wanted to be was Tarzan. It was my dream and my obsession. ... I knew Hollywood would believe I was Tarzan if I had that medal. All my life, I was emulating Johnny Weissmuller--he's the guy. I was constantly swinging on trees. I built up my forearms that way.

New Zealand's Peter Snell and Aussie Herb Elliott starred in middle-distance events.

Sisters Tamara and Irina Press led Russian women to 6 track and field victories. Sprinter Wilma Rudolph, from Tennessee, won 3 gold medals--the 1st American woman to achieve this. She had been crippled and confined to bed for 4 years as a child.

Italy had prepared a unique setting for certain events. The mossy Basilica of Maxentius, a 3rd-century public assembly hall, was refurbished for the wrestlers. Gymnasts swung and spun in the Baths of Caracalla, where wealthy Romans had taken steam baths 1,500 years earlier. Part of the marathon was run on the Appian Way, where Caesar's legions had once trod. The winner was Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian running in his bare feet.

Among the boxing champions was Cassius Marcellus Clay, flashy 18-year-old light heavyweight, who took hundreds of snapshots of people of all nationalities with his Brownie camera. Clay soon turned professional and became the youngest heavyweight champion ever.

The Soviets dominated gymnastics (Boris Shakhlin and Larisa Latynina gathered 13 medals in all) just as the U.S. dominated swimming.

The Germans ended U.S. dominance (since W. W. I) in 8-oar rowing with revolutionary tulip-shaped oars, an extremely high stroke and a seating change--the 4th and 5th oarsmen on the starboard side.

Russia's overall victory margin, 807 1/2 to 564 1/2 for the U.S., was nearly twice that of 1956. More than 100 TV companies presented the games to a massive international audience. In the heat of Rome's summer, a British cyclist died after taking a stimulant.

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