Skip to main content
Original Issue


Sport's big news is that athletes are our busiest ambassadors. They are looking to 1960 for the most spectacular Olympics of all. Here is an early preview of the grandeur that will be Rome

In the shrinking world of today, the surest passport for intercontinental travel is athletic ability. Russian wrestlers recently toured the United States and Russian weight lifters are here now. American basketball players have been to Moscow and Tiflis and Leningrad, and the favorites of the gallery at the Masters golf tournament were two small and cheerful Japanese pros. A cricket team from Pakistan performed in the eastern United States and American skiers people the snowy slopes of Europe. Since the end of World War II, sport on the international level has mushroomed tremendously in defiance of cold wars and iron curtains.

As athletes crisscross the world in usually friendly competition, most of them are looking ahead to 1960, when the games of the XVII Olympiad are scheduled for Rome. It looks like the greatest of all Olympic Games and Rome, a prime target for tourists for all of its 2,700 years, has preparations well in hand for probably the most overpowering influx of visitors since the barbarian invasions.

Architect of the new Roman Olympic installations is Professor Pier Luigi Nervi, at 67 a restless, energetic man who is a poet in concrete. For the Olympics, Nervi is constructing the Tiziano Stadium and two indoor sports stadiums, the recently completed Palazzetto dello Sport and the Palazzo dello Sport, a coliseum which will seat 18,000 spectators with no posts to obstruct the view of the spectators.

The main Olympic stadium, situated on the Tiber north of Rome in a complex of buildings started under Mussolini and known as the Foro Italico, will be rearranged to seat 110,000 for the Olympic Games. Close to it is the Stadio dei Marmi—the Marble Stadium, ringed by 60 imposing male statues—which will be used for warmup sessions by the competitors. It will be joined to the Olympic stadium by a tunnel fitted with dressing rooms and even a press room so that writers can intercept the athletes en route to or returning from competition. This tunnel is now under construction. The 55,000-seat Tiziano Stadium will also be a part of this complex. Italy, unlike Australia for the 1956 Olympics, is on or ahead of schedule in all of its preparations for the Games.

The only quibble Avery Brundage, head of the International Olympic Committee, could discover on his October 1957 visit to Rome was a question of housing for the athletes who will be on hand. This has been taken care of by moving out refugees from Anzio and Cassino who had squatted in an area near the primary Olympic site. In place of the old truck bodies and one-room shanties which now house these unfortunates, a modern housing project is slated for completion in time for occupancy by the athletes of the world.

The secondary Olympic complex is south of Rome, which is a long haul from the Foro Italico on the banks of the Tiber. There will be located Nervi's Palazzo dello Sport (basketball, boxing), the velodrome for cycling and accommodations for other minor sports.

The financing of this widespread building might give Mr. Brundage another point to argue about. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) derives its income from the national lottery (totocalcio). The original (1955) estimate for the cost of Olympic construction was 4 billion lira, or some $6.4 million. This did not include the Olympic Village, which is to be paid for by the Italian government and which cost another $4 million. As is usual, the original estimate proved low; Olympic structures now are estimated at $8 million and the cost of the Olympic Village, too, is expected to exceed the original estimate. CONI's only source of income is the totocalcio and this amounts to about $11 million per year, out of which some 2½ million are spent promoting sports in schools and in the armed forces.

Hotels are a-building all over Rome to accommodate the anticipated 2 million-plus visitors for the Olympic weeks. And in Rome, a city dedicated to architectural beauty, most of the hotels and Nervi's sports structures are part of the grandeur that was and will be Rome.

They pose with one of the 60 statues which ring the Stadio dei Marmi, a 20,000-seat stadium which will be used for warmups before events in the Olympic Games.

Pool will be used for water polo and swimming events in the pentathlon. Built in Mussolini's regime, it was completed in 1932. Murals on wall depict fantasy of men with sea horses. The outdoor pool will be used for Olympic swimming and diving competition. Murals are in mosaic tile.

A monument which was raised near Foro Italico Olympic site in honor of II Duce in 1932. Romans do not object to having Mussolini's name on the single piece of Carrara marble. "They haven't destroyed the Baths of Caracalla, although Caracalla was possibly the worst dictator Rome has ever known."

This now seats 100,000, but a rearrangement of seating will boost the capacity to 110,000 for the Olympic Games. In this stadium will take place the track and field events and the finals in soccer, plus the opening and closing ceremonies. It was first conceived by Mussolini for the 1944 Olympics.

Due to be cleared from this site for the erection of Olympic Village to house the 8,000-odd athletes expected for 1960. Inhabitants of the area, most of them refugees from Anzio and Cassino, are being given new and better housing by the municipality of Rome.

Pier Luigi Nervi is regarded as one of Europe's best engineers. The Palazzetto dello Sport (right) is distinguished by a dome supported by the Y-shaped structures around it designed to give maximum vertical support plus the strength to withstand a hurricane.

Opening Olympic competition will be held here if the Italian Olympic Committee is successful in having the track and field events postponed until the second week of the Games to sustain interest. This pool is located in the Foro Italico complex, near the principal Olympic Stadium.

Last of the triumphal arches to be erected in Rome, this will be the site of the finish of the marathon race, which will start just below the Piazza del Campidoglio. This arch, one of the many architectural wonders of Rome, was constructed as a memorial to the victories of Constantine and has three centuries of Roman history carved in bas-relief.

Used in past for open-air night concerts, will house the wrestling competition during the Olympics. Seats will be erected on wooden stands for the audience after a precedent set by Mussolini, who was particularly fond of concerts here and opera at the Caracalla.

An enormous structure originally built as a sort of king-size gymnasium, it will be used for Olympic gymnastic competition. Mussolini called this "The Theater of the 20 Thousand," from the 20,000 seats erected on wooden stands for opera performances.