The Gods on
know at what point in their modern history the Olympic games took on the almost
frightening dimensions they have today, but the
Olympics of my childhood and youth (
Some of the personalities who emerged from the Rome games -- I'm thinking of Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), the late Wilma Rudolph, the Eritrean athlete, Abebe Bikila who won the Marathon running barefoot, and, of course, others -- were amazing phenomena to the Roman public, who adopted them almost as family members, and talked about them for years to come.
In 1960, just as in 2012, the games were preceded by dire predictions of disaster, while learned and influential sports writers (almost exclusively British and American), having openly cast doubts on the ability of the Italians, generally viewed as despicable, or, at best, hapless and inefficient to organize such an important event, then proceeded gleefully to pounce upon any perceived organisational mishap, which, with an extraordinary lack of imagination, would more than once be compared to "tangled Spaghetti".
predictions" ( here the American press bore
greater responsibility than the British) consisted mainly in the
absolute certitude that the Italian Communists, who then had over 30% of the
popular vote, would manipulate events, through strikes and public unrest, to
create total, unmanageable chaos, perhaps violence. This was a totally unrealistic assessment,
owing more to prejudice than to judgement, since the Soviet Union, who
controlled the Italian Communist Party, really wanted to participate in the
Olympic games and win as many medals as
possible, sometimes through means which, today, would certainly raise eyebrows.
It has to be recalled that at that time the
Some things are difficult to say without appearing to be levelling totally unfounded accusations to the present-day organisers, but the last Olympics to be held before World War Two were hosted by National Socialist Germany. The desire to think big, to astound the populace and the world at large was one of the trademarks of this event, and that is perhaps why the succeeding, post-war, versions were held in much lower key. The need to astonish and overwhelm the public has however, returned and will certainly shape the Olympic games of the future, perhaps even leading some of the Host countries to bankruptcy (as, apparently, happened to Greece in 2004).
think that Heracles and his peers on
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The author of this submission, Carlo Ungaro, is a retired senior diplomatic officer who served in the Italian Foreign Service for over 40 years