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Martin Kane
August 15, 1960
The athletes converge, and despite the inevitable problems the ancient city is ready for a gay and gala show
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August 15, 1960

Olympic Roman Holiday

The athletes converge, and despite the inevitable problems the ancient city is ready for a gay and gala show

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These measures will work only a mild alleviation on a disorder that promises to be at best disagreeable, but, even so, sporting Romans who stay away from these Olympics will be handing themselves a lifetime of self-reproach. The 1960 Olympics promise the most exciting feats in history. As tryouts have been held, record after record has fallen. Under the stimulus of Olympic competition, many will fall again.

The past four years have seen an astonishing upward surge of athletic ability all over the world. In sports like track and field, where time and distance give a precise measure of improvement, the advances have been obvious. But there is good reason to believe that a comparable improvement has occurred in those sports that cannot be measured, in which only the expert eye can detect a higher standard of performance. The athletes and teams of 1960 are better than ever and more numerous than ever.

Presumably this is due in great part to a worldwide sociological trend toward better living. With better nutrition and more leisure time the world's sportsmen have made spectacular advances. An enormous surplus of human energy, hitherto spent in scrabbling for a living, has burgeoned and grown sporting fruit.

Part of the gain, too, must be attributed to an increasingly lenient interpretation of amateurism, now regarded in such relaxed terms that it can scarcely be defined at all (see page 72). This modern amateurism is manifest not only in the Iron Curtain countries, where athletes are given state jobs and limitless time to train, but has its parallels in the U.S. and other countries, too.

Improved techniques also have meant improved performance. The Germans, for instance, are expected to take the lead in crew because of Coach Karl Adam's strange tulip-shaped blades, which are high-stroked to a beat in the 40s, and the superb condition of his eight, which is in training all year round. Last month the Germans achieved the fastest 2,000-meter time ever recorded: five minutes 47.5 seconds. The Olympic best is 5:56.7. They have come up with a spectacular crew, one that is all but a cinch to take an event that the United States has dominated since 1920.

The United States, if the form charts starting on page 34 are borne out, will emerge from this Olympics second to the U.S.S.R. Doing well in the field events, the sprints and the hurdles, dominating the diving as always, excelling in basketball, and fielding the strongest equestrian team we ever have had, will not be enough to surpass the Russians in the unofficial but inevitable scoring.

There may be some pleasant surprises for the U.S., though. In John Kelley we have at last gained a good chance in the marathon, which we have not won since 1908. Through Jim Beatty we may expect something from the 5,000 meters. And we look to do very well in swimming, with our girls as well as the boys.

But we have lost ground in weight lifting, can expect not too much from our boxing team and, as usual, will do less than well in a style of wrestling our colleges refuse to accept.

Russian strength is concentrated in the modern pentathlon, weight lifting, wrestling and gymnastics. In gymnastics alone the Russians are almost conceded 12 out of a possible 14 gold medals. We'll trounce them in men's track and field and they will trounce us in women's track and field, where we don't expect a single first.

Some of the small countries have special hopes in special areas. Denmark dreams of taking home three of the five gold medals in yachting. Turkey looks for four firsts in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. The British West Indies has an 800-meters star in George Kerr. Hungary can taste three gold medals in fencing.

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