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1960 Olympic Games (Rome)

Though the Rome games were held at the height of the Mediterranean summer (against medical advice) they were a spectacular success.

Making the most of the country’s rich history, the wrestling competition was held in the Basilica of Maxentius with other ancient sites hosting gymnastics (Caracalla Baths) and the finish of the marathon (the Arch of Constantine).

Memorable victories seen around the world – for these Games were the first to get saturation TV coverage by more than 100 television channels – were those of the Tennessee beauty, Wilma Rudolph (pictured above), Frankfurt office worker Armin Hary, local hero Livio Berruti and the Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila.

1960romeolympics

Rudolph, a polio victim who could not walk properly until she was eight – won all three sprint records for the USA.

The unknown Bikila, barefoot and untroubled, led home the marathon runners to win the first track and field gold medal ever to go to Africa.

46-year-old Australian horseman Bill Roycroft left his hospital bed – he had broken his collarbone in a fall – and helped Laurie Morgan and Neale Lavis to victory over the cream of the world’s riders in the Three-Day Equestrian Event for teams.

Czechoslovakia spoiled Russia’s clean sweep of the women’s gymnastics when Eva Bosakova claimed gold on the balance beam.

Other notable winners in Rome included the light-heavyweight American boxer Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr who took gold. Clay would later turn professional, change his name to Muhammad Ali and dominate the boxing scene for much of the next two decades.

The Games were not without controversy. Danish cyclist Knut Jensen collapsed and died during a road race and was later found to have taken a stimulant. These were also the last games that South Africa was allowed to participate in due to Apartheid (they were re-admitted in 1992).

Following on from the Summer Olympics, the first-ever Paralympic Games were held in Rome between 18 and 25 September 1960 emphasising the participants’ athletic achievements rather than their disability. The USA topped the gold medal chart with 29 with Great Britain coming second with 19.