Played out in front of this dazzling backdrop, the Games of Paris 1924 created its own legends. Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn, cemented his status as the most dominant distance runner of the age, claiming five gold medals in individual and team competition. In the pool, a 20-year-old American named Johnny Weissmuller won three golds in swimming and a bronze in water polo, while also winning acclaim for his chiselled physique. Weissmuller would go on to parlay his Olympic fame into a long Hollywood acting career playing Tarzan the Ape Man.
The focus then shifts to 1928 and the second Winter Olympic Games, held in the luxurious French resort town of St. Moritz. The book paints a picture of exuberant crowds cheering as fearless sledders pilot primitive bobsleighs down the treacherous Cresta run, and urging the Swedish lumberjack Per Erik Hedlund through the slush for close to five hours to win the 50-kilometre cross-country ski race. It also tells the story of a smiling, 16-year-old figure skater from Norway named Sonja Henie, the unrivaled star of St. Moritz, who floated effortlessly between soft spots in the ice to win gold. Like Weissmuller four years earlier, Henie’s Olympic triumph would also lead to Hollywood stardom.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.