Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

15
The Games of the XVII Olympiad: Rome, 1960

In 394 A.D. the Roman Emperor Theodosius passed a decree outlawing all non-Christian celebrations, effectively ending the celebration known as the Olympic Games, which had taken place every four years for centuries. Rome played its part in the new Olympic movement 1,566 years after that decree, and the organizers, well aware of the rich historical implications, planned a spectacle that blended ancient and modern elements in breathtaking perfection.

The Italian Olympic Committee was given a percentage of the take from the weekly lottery on professional soccer, and as a result had more than $30 million to work with, enabling them to spare no expense in making these the most lavish Games imaginable. But despite the sparkling modern arenas such as the Palazzo della Sport where boxing and basketball finals were held, the Games had more than a little ancient color.

The Basilica of Maxentius played host to wrestling competitions, just as it had in ancient times, and the gymnasts, like their ancient counterparts, competed in the Terme di Caracala. These sites were a bit worse for the wear after nearly 2,000 years without hosting a competition, but the ruins provided a dramatic backdrop for the Games.

Because of the hot Italian summers, the start of the Games was pushed back to August 25. Thanks to an innovation called videotape, audiences in the United States had their first opportunity to watch same-day prime time coverage of Olympic events. Videotape was flown from Rome to New York

-67-

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