In retaliation for the US-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Soviet Union and 16 other Eastern Bloc countries declined to attend the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. But in spite of the absence of some of the world’s best athletes, Los Angeles produced many memorable Olympic champions. The book profiles Carl Lewis, who matched the great Jesse Owens with four golds in track and field; and Carlos Lopes, who won the first-ever gold medal for Portugal and set a record in the marathon that would last 24 years. The L.A. Games also saw the debut of women’s marathon, synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics, as well as the dominant performance of the US “Dream Team”, which thrilled basketball fans around the world.
Following Los Angeles, the book explores the Winter Olympics of 1988, held in Calgary, Canada. Heroes of Calgary profiled include Italian skier Alberto Tomba, who won two golds; Katarina Witt of East Germany, who won her second consecutive gold in figure skating; and the unlikely ski-jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards of Great Britain, who became a huge fan favourite. In the marque event of the Games, American Brian Boitano beat out Canadian Brian Orser by one-tenth of a point for figure skating gold.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.