In Rome's Foro Italico the white marble walls of the room which was once Mussolini's private gymnasium recently served as backdrop for the colorful photographic exhibition Sports in the United States, which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED prepared last year for the United States Information Agency.
Scheduled to appear in nearly 100 large cities around the world, the 23-panel show is part of USIA's program to explain to people in foreign countries the kind of people Americans are and, through that, to encourage the vital growth of international understanding.
At the exhibit, William Rospigliosi of TIME Inc.'s Rome bureau struck up a conversation with Mario Severini, 24-year-old captain of the Italian National Baseball Team.
"I wish," Severini said, "we had magazines like SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in Italy—I mean magazines that cover all sports, including the minor ones usually overlooked. Baseball is the youngest sport in Italy, only introduced in 1949. We're doing fine and have 7,000 spectators where we had 600 then. But where is an Italian magazine that tells about baseball the way SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covers some sports that must be comparatively little known in America?"
I don't think I can promise Mr. Severini an Italian edition of SI in the immediate future. But it will be a pleasure to send him both this issue and the next with the hope that he'll enjoy the baseball and will find his point well proved by our spectacle on the Mille Miglia this week (see pages 17-21) and the report on the race next week by none other than Bill Rospigliosi.
One of USIA's points, the international appeal of sports, is, of course, regularly reflected in SI's pages. And during an especially international year in sports, an Olympic year, it is surely appropriate for USIA's exhibit to hang in the building now headquarters for the Italian Olympic Committee—and in just the room where its contributions to international understanding will be in such marked contrast to those of the man who once practiced fencing and setting-up exercises in it.