Rome 1960

Rome 1960

Rome delighted in revealing its own ancient glories as the world watched the 1960 Olympics unfold. Events were held in famous historical sites such as the Baths of Caracalla. The marathon course snaked through the colourful streets of the Italian capital before ending on the Appian Way rather than in the newly-built Olympic Stadium. The winner of the marathon was Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, who ran the whole race in bare feet. His famous victory signalled the arrival of the great African distance runners who now dominate many Olympic events.

More than 5000 athletes from 83 nations competed in Rome, with 44 nations winning medals. For the second successive Games, the Soviet Union topped the medal table with 43 gold. Its fierce rival, the United States, was second on the medal table, with Australia an excellent fifth. Australian gold medallists such as Herb Elliott in the men’s 1500m and swimmers Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose were among the most revered athletes competing.

Australia at these Games

After the glories of Melbourne, Australia sent a confident team of 214 athletes, 184 men and 30 women, to Rome, its biggest team ever for an overseas Games. The team did not disappoint, finishing an impressive fifth on the medal table with eight gold, eight silver and six bronze medals. 

The Rome Olympics provided two of the most storied performances ever by Australians at the Games. On the track, Perth’s Herb Elliott won the 1500m gold medal in world record time to crown his tremendous career, decimating the field to win by almost 20 metres. Elliott would retire soon after the Games having won 44 consecutive races over 1500m or a mile. In equestrian’s three-day team event, the trio of Neale Lavis, Laurie Morgan and Bill Roycroft won the gold medal. However, it took some heroics from Roycroft to secure the win. After a bad fall on his mount Our Solo in the cross-country phase, Roycroft checked himself out of hospital the next day to ride in the final showjumping round, sealing Australia’s win. The unlucky horseman of Rome was Brian Crago, who had been part of Australia’s first equestrian team in 1956. His mountSabre had to retire from the team event, meaning Crago was not credited as part of Australia’s gold medal team. Adding to Australia’s equestrian triumph was Morgan’s win in the three-day individual event, with Lavis the silver medallist. 

Again, the swimming pool was where Australia made its greatest mark. Aussie swimmers won 13 medals - five gold, five silver and three bronze. Like in Melbourne four years earlier, Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose both won gold medals. Fraser won her second successive 100m freestyle crown, as well as silver medals in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays. Rose again won the 400m freestyle, the first man to win the event twice, was second in the 1500m freestyle to Aussie teammate John Konrads, and won a bronze medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay. Konrads also picked up two bronze medals, while his sister, Ilsa, won a silver medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay. Queensland ace David Theile won his second successive gold in the 100m backstroke and added a silver in the 4x100m medley relay. John Devitt, relay gold medallist in 1956, won Australia its second consecutive gold in the 100m freestyle.

Sailor Alex ‘Jock’ Sturrock, a bronze medallist in 1956, had the honour of carrying the Australian flag in the Opening Ceremony. Two years later he would lead Australia’s first challenge for the America’s Cup. Winning a bronze medal was light-heavyweight boxer Tony Madigan, who lost to Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) in a hotly-contested semi-final.

Australian Olympians At The Games

Flag Bearers

Olympian Name Ceremony
Jock Sturrock Opening

History

Rome delighted in revealing its own ancient glories as the world watched the 1960 Olympics unfold. Events were held in famous historical sites such as the Baths of Caracalla. The marathon course snaked through the colourful streets of the Italian capital before ending on the Appian Way rather than in the newly-built Olympic Stadium. The winner of the marathon was Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, who ran the whole race in bare feet. His famous victory signalled the arrival of the great African distance runners who now dominate many Olympic events.

More than 5000 athletes from 83 nations competed in Rome, with 44 nations winning medals. For the second successive Games, the Soviet Union topped the medal table with 43 gold. Its fierce rival, the United States, was second on the medal table, with Australia an excellent fifth. Australian gold medallists such as Herb Elliott in the men’s 1500m and swimmers Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose were among the most revered athletes competing. 

Among the many champions in Rome was an American light-heavyweight boxer named Cassius Clay. Later, he would change his name to Muhammad Ali and become the greatest heavyweight champion of them all. He would make a return to the Games to light the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta in 1996. Another American winning fans was sprinter Wilma Rudolph. As a child, she had been stricken with polio. But she overcame the illness to become one of the fastest women in the world, winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay golds.

If the golden moments of Clay, Bikila, Elliott, Rudolph and Fraser weren’t enough, Rome also witnessed the zenith of some of the Games’ most famous streaks – and the fall of one of its great dynasties. In fencing, Hungarian legend Aladar Gerevich won his sixth consecutive gold medal in the team sabre event, a record that still stands today. Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom became the first Olympian to win four successive individual gold medals, his success coming in the Finn dinghy class. In hockey, India’s men suffered their first loss since entering the Games in 1928, losing the final 1-0 to Pakistan. India had won 30 consecutive games and seven consecutive gold medals until the shock defeat.

Games Trivia

Emblem

The main creature in the emblem of the Rome 1960 Olympic Games is a she-wolf. Beneath her are Remus and Romulus, founders of the city of Rome. The date 1960 is expressed in roman numerals.

Royalty

The youngest member of the Greek dragon class sailing team became King of the Hellenes four years after the 1960 Summer Games. Crown Prince Constantine was 20 when he won a sailing gold medal for Greece. He was crowned King in 1964 and held this position until the abolition of the monarchy in 1973. HM King Constantine is now an Honorary Member of the IOC.

2015 Pacific Games

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Did you know?

Chantelle and Robert Newbery became the first husband and wife to win medals at the same Olympic Games in Athens 2004. Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks (equestrian) also achieved this feat at the 2008 Beijing Games.