Holding an Olympic Games in Rome had a great symbolic importance since during ancient times the Romans conquered Greece and transformed the ancient Olympic Games into a grotesque circus. However, after thousands of years, the Romans wanted to show their ability to stage a memorable Olympics.

A total of seven cities asked to host the 1960 Games, including Lausanne (Switzerland), Budapest (Hungary), Brussels (Belgium), Mexico City, Tokyo (Japan) and Detroit (United States) but finally the mythical Italian capital was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Rome had previously been selected to host the Games in 1908 but Mount Vesuvius erupting caused the IOC to name London as the new host.

The Games were held from August 25 to Sept. 11.

The Italian’s built new stadiums and renovated some sporting facilities which amply met the technical requirements and demands. Several places of historic interest from the ancient empire had been restored and were included among the sporting facilities.

The Basilica of Marentius and Constantine housed the wrestling competitions and the gymnastics were held in the Caracalla Baths while the Arch of Constantine was the finish line for the marathon.

Due to this, the over 600,000 visitors were left impressed by how well organized the event was and the how much passion the people of Rome had for the Games.

Television was the biggest contributing factor towards spreading the Olympic spirit. These Games were broadcast live in 18 European countries for the first time and with only a few hours delay, they were also shown in the United States, Canada and Japan.

The day before the Games of the XVII Olympiad were officially inaugurated, Pope John XXIII welcomed the 5,338 participating athletes during a special service to pray for the “high dignity of the athlete.”

In total, the athletes came from 83 nations to participate in the Rome Olympics and over 1,500 journalists covered the international sporting event. Also, women’s participation in the Olympics reached a historic figure at these Games with 611 women participating.

Like in the 1956 edition in Melbourne, athletes from East Germany and West Germany competed as the United Team of Germany under the Olympic Flag and used the notes from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as their national anthem.

Athletes from Morocco, San Marino, Sudan and Tunisia competed for the first time while athletes from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago represented the new (British) West Indies Federation, competing as Antilles. However, this nation only existed for the 1960 Olympiad.

In this edition, athletes from the African countries performed excellently. Boxer Clement Quartey from Ghana became the African country’s first ever medallist after winning the silver medal in the light welterweight category.

Five days later, Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian bodyguard, won the marathon event barefoot as there were no shoes to fit him when he arrived in Rome. he became the first black African Olympic champion. Also in this competition, four African athletes were among the first ten athletes to finish.

Also in athletics, German athlete Armin Hary became the first athlete ever to run 100 meters in 10 seconds, winning him the gold medal and a World Record.

Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich won his sixth consecutive gold medal in the team sabre event while Swedish sprint canoeist Gert Fredriksson also won his sixth Olympic title.

Italy’s Sante Gaiardoni became the only cyclist in Olympic history to win both the 1000 meters time trial and the 1000 meters sprint.

Cassius Marcellus Clay, 18, from the U.S. first gained international prominence by winning the light-heavyweight gold medal. Years later he changed his name to Muhammad Ali and embarked on a phenomenal career.
OLYMPIC GAMES ROME 1960 MEDAL TABLE
COUNTRY GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
USSR 43 29 31 103
US 34 21 16 71
Italy 13 10 13 36
Germany 12 19 11 42
Australia 8 8 6 22
Turkey 7 2 0 9
Hungary 6 8 7 21
Japan 4 7 7 18
Poland 4 6 11 21
Czechoslovakia 3 2 3 8
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Source: Xinhua/News Ghana

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