Posted: 8/18/2008


      Faster, Higher, Stronger(Citius,Altius, Fortius). It used to be fun to travel and watch the Summer Olympics and I did just that starting at Rome 1960, then Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich, Montreal.. Nowadays its all corporate, security and expensive.

       I had never been to a foreign country when I paid about $50.00 for a package: round trip train and ferry fare from London to Rome, and a week with 3 meals daily in the Italian capital.. It was as hot as hell and hard to keep cool, but it was a lot of fun and the chance, even in a short one week trip, to watch football, track and field, hockey, boxing and more.

     THE MOST inspirational event was the finals of the Olympic boxing at the beautiful Palazzo dela Sport designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi. The next time I visited that venue was for the draw for the FIFA World Cup in 1989 prior to the tournament the following summer, with Sophie Loren and Pavarotti.   In those days the 10 finals of the boxing were held on one night only, while today it has grown to eleven finals, held on two separate days to earn more money.

     I paid about $1.00(yes,thats all) for the second best seats in the 11,200 seat arena and it started with flyweight Gyula Torok of Hungary, followed by a Soviet bantamweight victory for Oleg Grigoryev. USA won three gold from Light Middleweight Wilbert McClure, Middleweight Eddie Crook Jr, and the fight that I will ALWAYS remember - Light heavyweight CASSIUS MARCELLO CLAY JR from Louisville, KY beating Australian hopeful Anthony Madigan.

    It inspired me to take up the sport a couple of months later and become an international boxer at fly weight-but THAT is another story!!  Cassius as we all know became Mohammed Ali,in 1964 on his conversion to muslim, and heavyweight World champion three times, and one of the most famous sportsmen of all time. At London 2012 FEMALE boxing will be introduced for the first time. One of his 7 (and 2 sons) daughters from his four marriages. Laila Al, is already a professional boxer. I am not sure if he has any younger daughters that might be a contender for the US amateur team.

    The accoustics at the Palazzo were perfect and with Francesco Muso at featherweight, Giovanni Benvenutti at welterweight, and heavyweight Francisco de Piccola winning gold for The Azzuri.  IT-AL-IA, IT-AL-IA was sung by the capacity crowd with gusto and passion, and has become my favourite national anthem since that evening in Roma. Lightweight gold went to Kazimier Pazdzior of Poland, Light middleweight to Bohumil Nemecak of Czechoslovakia. NO SIGN of the mighty Cuba as yet.

    On the track at the Stadio Olympico where I would watch the World Cup Final in 1990, I remember Livio Berruti in his dark sun glasses and white sox power himself around the curve to take the 200 metres gold for Italia, and Herb Elliott of Australia win the 1,500 metres. I witnessed some of the ten decathalon events in possibly the greatest Olympic contest of all time with Rafer Johnson of USA beating out C K Yang of Taiwan. They both studied and trained at UCLA and he played one season of basketball for coach John Wooten. His daughter Jennifer Johnson  was also an athlete at UCLA and represented USA at beach volleyball at the Sydney Olympics of 2000. Rafer was chosen to light the Olympic flame at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

   Then we had Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia winning the marathon-barefoot, the first African athlete to win an athletics medal. He repeated the feat, this time in shoes at Tokyo 1964 and after a car accident back home he became a quadriplegic and died at age 41 a few years later.