"1960 Olympic Games were held at a time of high tension and aggression between the United States and Soviet Union. As tensions began to rise during the Cold War, many questioned whether it was the right time to hold an Olympic Games. But to much surprise the 1960 Summer Olympics in Romes were the games that changed the world's view of the Olympics."
A few of the other runners sniggered when they saw Abebe Bikila turn up at the start of the Olympic marathon with no shoes. As a television camera scanned the scrum of athletes readying themselves for the starter's gun, a commentator asked: "And what's this Ethiopian called?" It was 1960, Rome. Africa was just shrugging off the weight of colonial rule and some sporting officials still doubted Africans were ready for the big time. A little over 2 hr. 15 min. later that myth lay shattered by the slight man wearing number 11, a member of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial Guard and a proud African whose gliding, barefoot run through Rome's cobblestone streets announced his continent's emergence as a running powerhouse.
Bikila's triumph was all the more stunning because it happened in the capital of Ethiopia's former military occupier. Legend has it that he made his decisive move in the race just as he passed the Axum Obelisk, a towering stela that Mussolini had brought back from Ethiopia as war loot. Four years later in Tokyo, Bikila won gold again, the first man to defend his Olympic marathon title. This time he wore shoes.
The 1960 Rome Games provided the defining moments of Rudolph’s extraordinary life story. She stormed to gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, breaking three world records in the process. She was dubbed “The Black Gazelle” by the European press for her speed, beauty and grace.