The 1960 Olympics were the first summer Games to be broadcast in North America, sparking massive interest in both the host city and the athletes. The book profiles heroes of Rome like the American sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who overcame childhood polio to become a triple-gold medal winner, and the young boxer Cassius Clay, who would win Olympic gold before going on to untold fame as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. Rome also saw the emergence of the powerful Japanese men’s gymnastics team, which began an unprecedented streak of five team golds, and produced the indelible image of Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila winning the marathon in bare feet.
Following Rome, the focus of the book shifts to Austria, and the 1964 Winter Games in the mountain town of Innsbruck. The sport of luge made its Olympic debut in 1964, and Russian speed skater Lidia Skobilkova cemented her place in Olympic history by winning all four women’s events. The book also profiles the Goitschen sisters of France, who finished first and second in both slalom and giant slalom.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.