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History of the Olympics

1960 - Rome, Italy


The 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy

It had been Coubertin's wish since 1904 to have the Olympics hosted in Rome: "I desired Rome only because I wanted Olympism, after its return from the excursion to utilitarian America, to don once again the sumptuous toga, woven of art and philosophy, in which I had always wanted to clothe her."* Fifty-six years later, Coubertin's wish was fulfilled.

Italy created a mixture of modern and ancient sites to hold the contests. An Olympic Stadium and a Sports Palace were built for the Games while the Basilica of Maxentius and the Baths of Caracalla were restored to host the wrestling and gymnastic events respectively.

The 1960 Olympic Games were the first Olympics to be fully covered by television.

Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia surprisingly won the gold medal in the marathon - with bare feet. Bikila won the gold again in 1964. United States athlete Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, won a gold medal in light heavyweight boxing.

Unfortunately, there was a ruling problem on the 100-meter free-style swim. John Devitt (Australia) and Lance Larson (United States) had been neck and neck during the last segment of the race. Though they both finished at about the same time, most of the audience, the sports reporters, and the swimmers themselves believed Larson (U.S.) had won. However, the three judges ruled that Devitt (Australia) had won. Even though the official times showed a faster time for Larson than for Devitt, the ruling held.

Approximately 5,000 athletes participated, representing 83 countries.

* Pierre de Coubertin as quote in Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 28.

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