Rome 1960 Olympic Games

Rome 1960 Olympic Games - XVII Olympiad

Rome narrowly missed hosting the 1908 Olympiad.  This ancient city had all the natural attractions to give the Olympic Games due ambience and gravitas.

The marathon started on Capitol hill and finished not in the stadium, but on the Appian way.  The event was won by the first of many great Ethiopian runners Abebe Bikila.  He was born on the 7th August 1932, the day of the Los Angeles Olympic marathon.  Back in 1960 no-one had realized the potential of this small country to produce great distance runners and it was a hug surprise that the unknown barefoot Abebe Bikila won the marathon.  However he proved it no fluke by winning the again at the Tokyo Olympics.

Controversy in the Rome 1960 Men's 100m Freestyle Olympic Final

There were no automatic starting pistols or touch pads at the Rome 1960 Olympics.  Electronic timing was in its infancy, and only used as back-up; there was no reliance on replays.

Results in the swimming pool were decided by finish judges relying on their eyes.  There were three first-place judges and three more for second-place.  The race itself was desperately close, Manual Dos Santos lead, but in the closing stages he was overtaken by both John Devitt and Lance Larson.  Controversy arose when the first-place judges favoured Devitt by 2-1 and the second-place also had Devitt 2-1.  In summary the six judges were split, 3-3, in terms of who won.

In addition to these judges each competitor had three hand-timers, each clocked Devitt, at 55.2 seconds.  Whereas those timing Larson recorded slightly faster times of 55.0, 55.1, and 55.1 seconds.  Under the rules the electronic timing should have been consulted, and it showed Larson winning in 55.10 seconds and Devitt second in 55.16 seconds

What happened next was abuse of power and a breach of the rules.  The head judge simply declared the slower Devitt, the winner.  No amount of protesting would overturn the result.  By all accounts both swimmers acted with dignity throughout the saga and the years that followed.  Lance Larson won a gold medal in the team 4 x 100m relay, in which he swum the butterfly leg.

Other Results in and on the Water

Anita Lonsbrough must have been some swimmer, because this English girl beat the Americans and Australians who between them, won every other race.

Olympic yachting always holds a strange fascination for me.  Firstly I cannot see how one man, or women, can consistently beat the rest when the all have identical boats.  But the main reason I am fascinated is that older, not athletic types often win the races.  In 1960, crown prince, later King Constantine of Greece, won a gold medal in the Dragon class.  As a royal prince, there was only one person who dared to give him the traditional winners ducking - his mother Queen Frederika.  (I cannot visualise Queen Elizabeth ever giving any of her children a royal ducking in public.)

Other highlights

Also on the track Peter Snell and Herb Elliot defied the heat to win the 800m and 1500m respectively.  Wilma Rudolph caught the eye in the women's 100 and 200m sprints.  In fact Wilma had an inspirational tale to tell, she recovered from childhood polio.


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See more about The London 2012 Olympic Games:

2012 London Olympics   • 1952 Helsinki Olympics   • 1956 Melbourne Olympics   • 1960 Rome Olympics

1964 Tokyo Olympics   • 1968 Mexico Olympics   • 1972 Munich Olympics   • 1976 Montreal Olympics

1980 Moscow Olympics   • 1984 LA Olympics   • 1988 Seoul Olympics   • 1992 Barcelona Olympics