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Rome 1960 - Overview

A blend of history and modern times

The image of barefoot Ethiopian Abebe Bikila running to victory in the marathon, passing the vestiges of Rome's once truly glorious splendour, lent the 1960 Olympics a nostalgic link between history and modernity as the first Games to be exposed to mass market TV.

Rome is widely held to be one of Europe's most beautiful cities and organisers made spectacular use of this quality when choosing where to locate events.

Turkish wrestlers took seven golds in the sumptuous surroundings of the Maxence Basilica while the Soviets took 15 of a possible 16 medals in gymnastics at a site by the Caracalla Thermal baths.

The Eternal City can boast to have staged one of the greatest ever Games. The hosts came third in the medals table and the Olympic movement later declared deep satisfaction with how things had gone.

One of the Games' heroes came in the form of African-American Wilma Rudolph, the 20th of a 22 child family who overcame polio at the age of nine to go on and win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m golds in Rome, where local papers nicknamed her 'the Black Gazelle'.

Cassius Clay strikes gold

The men's sprint titles traditionally went to Americans but in Rome, Germany's Armin Hary won the 100m dash and to the ecstatic cheers of the delirious home crowds Livio Berrutti, an Italian, won the 200m gold.

Other memorable feats included the beating of Jesse Owens' long-jump record after it had stood some 25 years. America's Ralph Boston finally breaking the spell with a jump of 8.21m.

Two antipodean middle distance runners also broke onto the scene. Peter Snell from New Zealand bagged the 800m gold and Australian Herb Elliott the 1500m.

In the Olympic pool the Americans recovered from the Melbourne edition four years previous and the Australian raid on medals by winning nine gold as opposed to five by the Aussies.

On the hockey field, India let the gold slip for the very first time losing out to their bitter rivals and northern neighbours Pakistan.

Motor-mouthed American boxer Cassius Clay launched his memorable career at the Roman Games winning gold in the light-heavyweight division.

Clay, later a renowned civil rights orator, threw his gold medal in a river on his return to the US after being refused admission to a whites only restaurant in the racist segregation marred America of that time.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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