Friday 20 April 2012

1960 Summer Olympics Rome: XVII Olympiad and I Paralympics

The voting for hosting the XVII Olympics started off very tight in the first round of voting at the 50th IOC Session in Paris on 15 June 1955. Rome had 15 votes to Lausanne in Switzerland with  14. Budapest in Hungary had 8, then Detroit , Brussels and Mexico City all had 6, with Tokyo bringing up the rear with 4.

The second round with Tokyo eliminated saw a shift of votes to 26 for Rome, 21 for Lausanne, 11 for Detroit and only Budapest picking up a single other vote. So the third round became a head to head which Rome secured  with 35 votes to 24.

So after having to give up hosting the 1908 Games due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 requiring the money set aside to host the Games, they finally took to a Roman stage.

Nations 83 (+11)
Competitors 5338 (+1984)
Sports 17 (NC)
Events 150 (+5)

25 August to 11 September 1960 hosted by Rome, Italy

Paralympics welcomed into the family

Rome was the first time that the Paralympics came to be associated with the Olympic movement. Original the games which were hosted in Rome from 18 to 25 September were just the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games. However, in 1984 the IOC approved the name Paralympic Games and since 1988 they have been hosted in the same city as the Olympics.

Because these games had stemmed from the Stoke Mandeville Games the only disability that was catered for at these Paralympics was spinal chord injury. Also in each of the events there were only three competitors or teams per event so everyone received a medal on completing their event.

The stats for those first Paralympics wer

Nations 23
Competitors 400
Sports 8
Events 53

The sports that formed those first paralympics were:

  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Dartchery
  • Snooker
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Wheelchair Basketball
  • Wheelchair Fencing
Taking part along with the hosts Italy, were:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, West Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Rhodesia, Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Yugoslavia.
Margaret Maughan Britain's first Paralympic Gold medalist 
One element that did arise from the early paralympians certainly was the diversity of sports that they took part in. One example from those first Games was Great Britain's Margaret Maughan (pictured) . In 1959 she had been involved in a car accident and was unable to walk. Just over a year later she was taking part in the inugural archery competition winning Britain's first Paralympic goild medal. She also took to the pool for the 50m backstroke. Although she was the only competitor in her class she had to complete the swim to earn another gold.

She returned in 1968 in Tel Aviv for two Archery competitions but failed to medal. In 1972 at Heidelberg she again failed in the archcery but took gold with M. Cooper in the women pair open Dartchery competition. At Toronto in 1976 she and M. Cooper narrowly failed to retain their title settling for silver, but she also entered the lawn bowls, just missing out in 4th in the ladies singles but with F. Nowak winning silver in the pairs. Her final Games were in 1980 at Arnhem where she only entered the bowls, coming fourth again in the singles but with R. Thompson took her fourth and final gold in the ladies pairs.

Little bit of sprint history

Photo Finish in the 100m
The 100m final of the 1960 Games were unbeknown to those watching going to make a bit of Olympic history. It was the last time in the history of the Games that the 1,2,3 in the Blue Riband event of the Athletics were to be Caucasian. Even in the heavily boycotted Games of 1980 Cuba's Silvio Leonard would ensure that the scene at the medal ceremony in Rome would not be repeated at any Games since.

In the end it did take a photo finish to separate the first two to cross the line on the evening of 1 September. But Armin Hary of Germany became the first non-American since 1928 to take gold in the 100m, beating out the American Dave Simm in an Olympic record equalling 10.2 secs, a time they were both given. In third came Great Britain's Peter Radford, who is one of the home Olympians to appear on the front covers of 2011/12 Phone Directories as he appears on the Birmingham North directory where his club Birchfield Harriers is located.

Great Britain's last team in Olympic Football

Great Britain's last Olympic Football team
What may startle many football fans in that up until 1960 Great Britain usually took part in the Olympic football competition. In 1896 and 1932 there was no competition, in 1904 when only two USA and one Canadian team took part and in 1924 and 1928 there was no Great Britain team but in 1960 came the end of the long line of GB taking part.

The squad in 1960 consisted of 13 Englishmen, 4 Scots and 2 Northern Irish players. Among them was Laurie Brown then of Bishop Auckland who would later play for Arsenal and Tottenham. His daughter Karen would win bronze in the 1992 Games in Hockey and who retired the world's most capped player. Also there was Jim Lewis making his third Olympic appearance who as an amateur was part of the 1954-5 Chelsea league champion side. David Holt then of Queen's Park but about to sign for Hearts who would earn 5 caps for the Scotland team. Hugh Barr of Ballymena United who would go on to play professionally for Coventry City.

Many of this squad are still alive and in their mid seventies. But their loss to a Brazil team, which contained some of those that would go on to win the 1970 World Cup, in the first game was their undoing. They conceded three goals in eleven minutes after the 60th minute. Although even the Brazilians lost out to Italy for the Group but it was Yugoslavia in their fourth consecutive final took what ended up being the countries only gold from five medal performances.

Six sabre golds

Aladár Gerevich first appeared in the Hungarian sabre team in Los Angeles in 1932. As was Hungary's way the team won gold. Apart from 1920, when they weren't invited and 1924 when they lost out to the Italians it was Hungary gold since it was brought in in 1908. He was part of the team in Berlin 1936, London 1948 (in which he also added individual gold), Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956, all of which earned another team gold. In 1960 aged 50 he secured a sixth team gold in the sabre. But he also made it to the semi-finals of the indivudual. Two of his bouts had ended 5-4 to Wladamiro Calarese, who would go through on the fence off to claim bronze, and his team mate Zoltán Horváth who took silver behind another Hungarian Rudolf Kárpáti.

Along with silver in the 1952 individual sabre and bronze in 1936, plus a bronze in the 1952 team foil Gerevich is certainly the most successful Olympic fencer. One does wonder what he could have done if the 1940 and 1944 Games had taken place. Surely in a period of Hungarian dominance he would have been in eight consecutive teams likely to have won team gold.

Four Golden Sails and Discs

The last time the Olympic sailing regatta came to British waters a young Dane called Paul Elvstrøm won gold in the Firefly class off Torquay. 

By Rome he had added two gold in the new Finn Class. He started the regatta with a win in the first race, a feat he repeated in the third and sixth races of the seven race competition, with the best 6 results counting. Along with a second place finish in the fourth race and two fifths in the second and fifth race he's opened a 1,978 point lead. With 1,645 points going to line honours he didn't even need to start the last race to claim his fourth gold medal in consecutive games. Elvstrøm was not finished yet though he would compete in four more Games up to his final appearance in 1988. This summer off Weymouth there is of course a British Sailor who in his fifth Olympiad is seeking to take fourth Olympic gold, as Ben Ainslie goes for his third Finn Gold medal as well.

The sixth race for Elvstrøm occured on the 6th September and 12:30pm the same day that in the 10am qualifying session another Olympic Champion stepped up to attempt to take gold once more. Al Oerter threw 58.43m in the second round of qualifying of the Discus to surpass his own Olympic Record from Melbourne by over 2 metres. At 3pm the following day he stepped up for his final his toughest challenge came from his team mate Rink Babka, the world record holder at 59.91m just the month before equally the distance of fellow finalist Edmund Piątkowski of Poland who had thrown that far in 1959. 

Piątkowski however was never in form, throwing no further than 55.12m for fifth place. But Babka took the lead in the first round with 58.02 to Oerter's 57.64. In the fifth round Oerter threw yet another Olympic Record 59.18. He would go on to win another gold in Tokyo for third successive time beating the holder of the world record at the time into silver before taking his fourth at Mexico City with a fourth Olympic record winning performance.

Barefooted Marathon

These days it is hard to imagine an Olympic athletics meet without any number of medals going to black African runners, but by 1960 there had still to be the rise in Kenyan distance running, let alone anywhere else. However along the road of the Rome including past the Collesium and along the famous Appian Way  a barefoot Ethiopian made amends for that.

At 10km there was a group of five already formed with Allah Saoudi (Morocco), Arthur Keily & Brian Kilby (GB), Gerhart Hecker (Hungary) and that Ethiopian in his bare feet Adebe Bikilia. Just three seconds back was Bertie Messitt of Ireland. 

But the heat started to play its part by 15km a totally different group had formed at the front. Bikila and Keily were still there but a different Moroccan Rhadi Ben Abdesselam and the Belgian Aurèle Van den Driessche. Saoudi was next some 23 seconds back, Kilby 42 seconds behind the leaders. Hecker and Messitt had dropped right away and would be among those that failed to complete the course.

At 20 km it was just the two pictured in the lead Bikila and Rhadi in 1h 2'39", Van den Driessche was 26 seconds behind, Keily was 4th  with Dutchman Frans Künen 5th. Worth mentioning is Barry Magee of New Zealand who was 10th five kilometres earlier only 57 seconds back. While others were dropping off he had only lost 4 seconds on the leaders pace and was now 8th. 5km later Magee had climed to 3rd one 1'24" behind the leaders along with Sergey Popov of the USSR who he had been running with, they were now 23 seconds clear of Keily. With another pair Bakir Ben Aissa (Mor) and Franjo Mihalić (Yugoslavia). From 35km on though Popov was dropped by Magee and from 37km on Bikila dropped Rhadi but these three would win the medals, in the case of Magee certainly a case of slow and steady wins the day (or at least the bronze).

But Bikila's win was the start of the open floodgates of African nations winning distance races, that includes an Ethiopian who won the Marathon in 1964, the first time the Marathon title was defended.

Future King in golden dragon

Nyrefs skippered by then HRH Crown Prince
Constantine is the farther yacht GE-3
Back to the Bay of Naples for one final piece of Olympic trivia. For the second time a Crown Prince of a European Royal Family won gold at an Olympics. The first occasion was Crown Prince Olav of Norway, who since 1957 had been King Olav V. This time it was the now monarchs 3rd cousin once removed and the Crown Prince of the land of the Olympics Greece of the Hellenes themselves.

The twenty year-old Prince Constantine didn't start too well skippering his Dragon Class yacht Nyrefs, he only came 10th in the first race of the regatta. But the 532 points awarded for that postion would end up as his disgarded score when the best six scores were taken at the end. On the last two days of August in races two and three he placed third in the dragon fleet. But he started September in race four with a win, which pulled him ahead of the Argentine and Canadian crews with only Italy still ahead of him. 

Race five saw the Italians finish a lowly 11th with Constantine taking Greece into fourth behind Great Britain, Argentina and Denmark. It meant that Argentina had recovered second place behind Italy but the gaps were closing for the top three. The next race saw the Greek boat only nine seconds behind Norway for second, but Argentina had been disqualified from that race and Italy only 14th. It meant that if Italy didn't win a fourth place finish would be enough. Constantine did crew his boat to 4th in the final race of the regatta, Argentina came 10th and were not able to challenge and the Italians were disqualified.

See also the full list of all my Olympic posts.

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