1960 Summer Olympics

Facts

Competition type Olympic Games
Host city Roma, Italy (Venues)
Opening ceremony 25 August
Closing ceremony 11 September
Competition dates 25 August – 11 September
OCOG Comitato organizzatore dei Giochi della XVII Olimpiade
Participants 5352 from 83 countries
Medal events 150 in 22 disciplines

Overview

Rome was awarded the 1908 Olympics but eventually turned them down after Mt. Vesuvius erupted and the Italian government claimed it needed money to rebuild the cities affected by that disaster. Fifty-two years later the Olympics would return to the eternal city. Never before, and possibly never again, were the ancient and modern worlds so intertwined at an Olympics. The 1960 Olympics were a wonder. In an Olympic world that was becoming more and more involved in political problems, the Rome Olympics were almost entirely devoid of controversy and politics.

Many of the sporting events took place in settings thousands of years old. Wrestling was held in the Basilica di Maxentius, where similar competitions had taken place two millennia previously. Gymnastics events were contested in the Terme di Caracalla. For modern facilities the Italians provided Stadio Olimpico, a beautiful track & field complex, the Sports Palace for boxing, and the cycling velodrome.

The only minor controversy concerned the athletes from Chinese Taipei. The nation wished to compete as the Republic of China, but the IOC and the organizing committee insisted that they compete using the name “Taiwan/Formosa”.

A number of heroes emerged from the Games, but perhaps the biggest story was the relative collapse of the American track & field dynasty. The US won only nine gold medals in men’s athletics, compared to 15 in Melbourne. Heavy favorites such as Ray Norton in the sprints and John Thomas in the high jump performed poorly and did not win. In probably the biggest upsets, the US failed to win the 100 metres, 200 metres, and 4×100 metre relay for the only time in Olympic history to that date.

In women’s athletics however, the Italians and the world thrilled to the feats of Wilma Rudolph, an American sprinter from Tennessee. Long-legged and attractive, she was dubbed by the European press as “La Gazelle Noir” – the Black Gazelle. She won the women’s 100 metres, 200 metres and anchored the winning sprint relay.

In basketball and boxing, two of the greatest practitioners of those sports ever were on display. In basketball, the US men’s team won very easily as their team was led by Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas, Walt Bellamy, and Terry Dischinger. Possibly the greatest amateur team ever, it rivals many of the great NBA teams. In boxing, the light-heavyweight gold medal was won by Cassius Clay, who as Muhammad Ali would thrill the world for the next two decades as “The Greatest”.

One of the most beautiful sights of the 1960 Olympics merged the Ancient World and the Modern Olympics, and the old and emerging world orders. The marathon was the first Olympic marathon to start and finish outside the main Olympic stadium (followed in 2012 by London), beginning on Capitoline Hill, and finishing along the Appian Way, underneath the Arch of Constantine. Previously always the province of white runners, often Finnish, the race came down to two African runners, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia and Rhadi Ben Abdesselam of Morocco. The race finished beautifully at night, the Appian Way lit by torchlights, as Bikila, running barefoot, pulled away to win. He was the first black African to win a gold medal, and he did it in the city which 30 years prior had sent troops to conquer his Ethiopian homeland. His victory was but a precursor to the great black African runners who would win many gold medals at the Olympics in the years to come.

The 1960 Olympics were the first ones televised in the United States, although all events were shown on tape delay after the film was flown from Rome to New York. And also for the first time since the 1912 marathon, the Olympics saw the death of a competitor. In the cycling road race, Knud Enemark Jensen (DEN) collapsed and later died. He was suspected of having taken amphetamines, though this remains controversial and has never been proven, but his death was partially responsible for the institution of drug testing in the mid-60s.

With the boycotts, massacres and political problems that were to come, many Olympic aficionados would later yearn for the glory that was Ancient Greece and the grandeur that was Modern Rome.

Bid process

Bid voting at the 51st IOC Session in Paris on 16 June 1955.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Rome Italy 15 26 35
Lausanne Switzerland 14 21 24
Detroit, Michigan United States 6 11
Budapest Hungary 8 1
Brussels Belgium 6
Mexico City Mexico 6
Tokyo Japan 4

Ceremonies

Officially opened by Giovanni Gronchi (President)
Torchbearer(s) Giancarlo Peris (Lit flame)
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Adolfo Consolini
Flagbearers Full list
Olympic Flag Bearers Eight unknown athletes, Small group of unknown sailors

Medal Disciplines

Artistic Gymnastics Equestrian Dressage Sailing
Athletics Equestrian Eventing Shooting
Basketball Equestrian Jumping Swimming
Boxing Fencing Water Polo
Canoe Sprint Football Weightlifting
Cycling Road Hockey Wrestling
Cycling Track Modern Pentathlon
Diving Rowing

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Soviet Union URS 43 29 31 103
United States USA 34 21 16 71
Italy ITA 13 10 13 36
Germany GER 12 19 11 42
Australia AUS 8 8 6 22
Turkey TUR 7 2 0 9
Hungary HUN 6 8 7 21
Japan JPN 4 7 7 18
Poland POL 4 6 11 21
Czechoslovakia TCH 3 2 3 8
Romania ROU 3 1 6 10
Great Britain GBR 2 6 12 20
Denmark DEN 2 3 1 6
New Zealand NZL 2 0 1 3
Bulgaria BUL 1 3 3 7
Sweden SWE 1 2 3 6
Finland FIN 1 1 3 5
Austria AUT 1 1 0 2
Yugoslavia YUG 1 1 0 2
Pakistan PAK 1 0 1 2
Ethiopia ETH 1 0 0 1
Greece GRE 1 0 0 1
Norway NOR 1 0 0 1
Switzerland SUI 0 3 3 6
France FRA 0 2 3 5
Belgium BEL 0 2 2 4
Islamic Republic of Iran IRI 0 1 3 4
Netherlands NED 0 1 2 3
South Africa RSA 0 1 2 3
Argentina ARG 0 1 1 2
United Arab Republic UAR 0 1 1 2
Canada CAN 0 1 0 1
Chinese Taipei TPE 0 1 0 1
Ghana GHA 0 1 0 1
India IND 0 1 0 1
Morocco MAR 0 1 0 1
Portugal POR 0 1 0 1
Singapore SGP 0 1 0 1
Brazil BRA 0 0 2 2
West Indies Federation WIF 0 0 2 2
Iraq IRQ 0 0 1 1
Mexico MEX 0 0 1 1
Spain ESP 0 0 1 1
Venezuela VEN 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Borys Shakhlin URS
UKR
4 2 1 7
Larysa Latynina URS 3 2 1 6
Takashi Ono JPN 3 1 2 6
Chris von Saltza USA 3 1 0 4
Wilma Rudolph USA 3 0 0 3
Polina Astakhova URS 2 1 1 4
Antonina Seredina URS 2 0 0 2
Laurie Morgan AUS 2 0 0 2
Sante Gaiardoni ITA 2 0 0 2
Rudolf Kárpáti HUN 2 0 0 2
Giuseppe Delfino ITA 2 0 0 2
Viktor Zhdanovich URS 2 0 0 2
Marharyta Nikolaieva URS 2 0 0 2
Nobuyuki Aihara JPN 2 0 0 2
Ferenc Németh HUN 2 0 0 2
Ingrid Gulbin-Engel-Krämer GDR
GER
2 0 0 2
Lynn Burke USA 2 0 0 2
Carolyn Schuler USA 2 0 0 2
Jeff Farrell USA 2 0 0 2
Mike Troy USA 2 0 0 2
Armin Hary GER 2 0 0 2
Glenn Davis USA 2 0 0 2
Otis Davis USA 2 0 0 2

All medalists at these Games