They were the first televised Olympics. The first doping scandal occurred there. Civil rights was an enormous issue, with black athletes emerging as super-stars and gold-medal winners. Women athletes were emerging into the world spotlight for the first time.
East and West Germany competed as one team even though they hated each other, just before the Berlin Wall went up. China and Taiwan were fighting over which rightfully could claim the title of China, a dispute with enormous political ramifications.
Both the US and Soviet Union viewed the Olympics as an important propaganda stage. There were spies on both sides and attempts at defection on both.
There were many unforgettable characters: Rafer Johnson, the first athlete to carry the US flag, the best athlete of that era, winner of the decathlon; Wilma Rudolph and the Tennesse State Tigerbelles, who dominated the womens sprints and did more than any athletes before them to bring the global spotlight to women; Cassius Clay, an 18-year-old high school student who won the gold medal as light heavyweight; Dave Sime, the medical student from Duke who competed in the thrilling hundred yard dash while attempting to persuade a Soviet athlete to defect; and Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian marathoner who became the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal, doing it by running through the streets of Rome in bare feet less than a quarter-century after Italy had invaded his country. Many others, including the Olympics president whose vision of innocent amateurism was collapsing.
"As usual, these Olympic stories don't quite bear up under the mythic symbolism they're weighted with...but Maraniss provides an intelligent context for his evocative reportage." - Publishers Weekly.
"Starred Review. Evocative, entertaining and often suspenseful - sports history at a very high standard." - Kirkus Reviews.
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David Maraniss is an associate
editor at The Washington Post and the author of several critically
acclaimed and bestselling books, including When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince
Lombardi, First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, They Marched
Into Sunlight War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967, and
Clemente The Passion and Grace of Baseballs Last Hero. He is also the
author of The Clinton Enigma and coauthor of The Prince of
Tennessee: Al Gore Meets His Fate and "Tell Newt to Shut Up!"
David is a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and won the Pulitzer for national reporting in 1993 for his newspaper coverage of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. He also was part of The Washington Post team that won a ...
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