The beginning of the Olympics that charmed the world. The miracle of a united Germany

60 years since the Olympic Games in Rome

Sixty years have passed since that unforgettable afternoon on 25th August 1960, which entered not only Italian sporting history, but Italian history as a whole. At 5.46pm, the Games of the XVII Olympiad in Rome were officially opened, among the most fascinating and engaging games of the 20th century. Italy, fresh from the organisation of the VII Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo in 1956, once again found itself four years later in the world’s spotlight for a unique and once-in-a-lifetime event.

It was a sort of redemption after the tragedy of the Second World War, a slow and difficult reconstruction, and the international distrust of a country that, up to fifteen years before, had been enslaved to a dictatorship. Sport played a key role in regaining the trust of international circles. A decisive role was played by the policies of the Prime Minister, Alcide De Gasperi, and the Undersecretary of the Council Presidency, Giulio Andreotti. Contrary to initial intentions, they avoided the liquidation of CONI, providing Giulio Onesti with new means, who was firstly appointed commissioner and then elected president.

This choice not only guaranteed the Authority with autonomy, but allowed Onesti to establish himself as a leading figure at an international level, developing a policy of amity with the emerging countries of the Mediterranean area. Rome, then, after the defeat of the 1904 candidacy, the withdrawal after the award of 1908 - following the eruption of Vesuvius in 1906 - and the lack of organisation in 1944 due to the war conflict, applied for the 1960 edition.

The Eternal City had Lausanne, Detroit, Budapest, Brussels, Mexico City, Tokyo and Toronto as adversaries. On 15th June 1955 in Paris, during the 50th session of the IOC, Rome received so many votes that it won the third round with 35 votes against 24 for Lausanne. This represented a new and great opportunity for an Italy in full economic boom.

The city was equipped with infrastructures and facilities that designed its urban structure for years, still recognisable today, thanks to the work of the architectural and engineering genius of leading figures. These included Enrico Del Debbio, Annibale Vitellozzi, Pier Luigi and Antonio Nervi, Vittorio Cafiero, Amedeo Luccichenti, Vincenzo Monaco and Luigi Moretti, to name but a few. 5,338 athletes took part in the Rome Olympics, including 611 women, representing 83 nations, which would have been 84 if Luim Esajas, the only athlete from Suriname, had managed to reach Rome. Morocco, San Marino, Sudan and Tunisia participated for the first time, while Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago chose the Antilles as their sole representative. Rhodesia united the northern and southern states under one flag.

The representative with the highest number of athletes was Germany with 293, followed by the United States (292), the USSR (283) and Italy (280). Seventeen sports were hosted: water sports (diving, swimming and water polo), athletics, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling (road and track), equestrian (dressage, eventing, show jumping), fencing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting (still target and clay pigeon), weightlifting and wrestling (free and Greco-Roman).

On that day the city was in fervent anticipation, while the organisers’ adrenaline rose bit by bit. There were the final details to fix, but above all the air was filled with the emotion of a city that, representing an entire country, had invested all of itself in the Olympics. An hour after the opening of the Olympic Stadium gates, athletes coming from the Village began to serpentine on foot towards the Foro Italico, crossing the Tiber at Ponte Milvio, and then positioned themselves at the Stadio dei Marmi to wait for the teams' parade.

According to tradition, Greece opened the parade, followed in Italian alphabetical order by the rest of the teams. At one point, the representative of the Republic of China appeared, but the sign preceding them bore the inscription Formosa since the delegation from Taiwan was forbidden from parading with the sign of the Republic of China. When the delegation was near the Authority Tribune, an official showed a large white sheet of paper with the handwriting “Under protest”.

sfilata germania But the biggest shock was to see the two united Germanies parade together (after the grumbling of the East), so much so that the President of the Republic, Giovanni Gronchi, exclaimed, “But this is a miracle!” and in contrast, IOC Chairman Avery Brundage commented, “Sometimes in sports, we can do things like that.” Almost all the delegations had now positioned themselves in the centre of the stadium, while the Italian team was just a short distance away.

Among the jubilation of the 65,000 spectators present, Italy, led by fencing champion Edoardo Mangiarotti - winner of 11 Olympic medals - made its entrance to roaring applause that greeted the athletes in blue jackets and white trousers. As was ceremonial, it was time for the opening speeches, entrusted to Giulio Andreotti and Avery Brundage, which were followed by the statement of President Gronchi who proclaimed the opening of the Games.

The Olympic pennant was hoisted and the 43-year-old Adolfo Consolini - who won gold in London in 1948 and silver in Helsinki in 1952 - pronounced the athlete oath, with the simultaneous flight of 5000 white doves and loudspeakers that spread the sound of all the bells of Rome. Finally, the most exciting moment of the ceremony was the arrival of the Olympic flame, which, in its journey between the Aegean Sea and Magna Graecia, brought to mind the champions of old. The last torch-bearer, Giancarlo Peris, was not an established champion, but rather a boy from Civitavecchia who had won the provincial 1000m cross-country running championships, as had been previously established (watch him recall the event in a video interview with Marco Pastonesi on

Giancarlo Peris Stadio Olympico It was an image that represented how the reconstruction of Italian sport had started from the bottom. A few years later (1966), with the establishment of the Youth Games, the innovation strongly desired by the Secretary General of CONI, Bruno Zauli, would commence. That sort of relay race between the veteran Consolini and the young Peris symbolically depicted the history and future of sport to celebrate the present - that of an unforgettable Olympics.

Medals won by Italians in Rome 1960

Romano Sgheiz, Ivo Stefanoni, Franco Trincavelli, Fulvio Balatti, Giovanni Zucchi Bronze - Rowing: Coxed four

Tullio Baraglia, Renato Bosatta, Giancarlo Crosta, Giuseppe Galante Silver - Rowing: Coxless four

Valentino Gasparella Bronze - Cycling::sprint

Giuseppe Beghetto, Sergio Bianchetto Gold - Cycling: tandem

Sante Gaiardoni Gold - Cycling: 1,000m individual time trial from standstill

Sante Gaiardoni Gold - Cycling: sprint

Luigi Arienti, Franco Testa, Mario Vallotto, Marino Vigna Gold - Cycling: 4,000m team pursuit

Antonio Bailetti, Ottavio Cogliati, Giacomo Fornoni, Livio Trapè - Gold - Cycling: 100km team time trial

Livio Trapè Silver - Cycling: individual road race

Franco Menichelli, Giovanni Carminucci, Pasquale Carminucci, Gianfranco Marzolla, Orlando Polmonari, Angelo Vicardi Bronze - Gymnastics general team competition

Franco Menichelli Bronze - Gymnastics: Floor

Giovanni Carminucci Silver - Gymnastics: parallel bars

Amedeo Ambron, Danio Bardi, Giuseppe D'Altrui, Salvatore Gionta, Giancarlo Guerrini , Franco Lavoratori, Gianni Lonzi, Luigi Mannelli, Rosario Parmegiani, Eraldo Pizzo, Dante Rossi, Brunello Spinelli Gold - Water polo

Giuseppina Leone Bronze - Athletics: 100m

Francesco Musso Gold - Boxing: Featherweight

Nino Benvenuti Gold - Boxing: Welterweight

Franco De Piccoli Gold - Boxing: Heavyweight

Primo Zamparini Silver - Boxing: Bantamweight

Sandro Lopopolo Silver - Boxing: Lightweight

Carmelo Bossi Silver - Boxing: Light middleweight

Giulio Saraudi Bronze - Boxing: Light Heavyweight

Livio Berruti Gold - Athletics: 200m

Edoardo Mangiarotti, Giuseppe Delfino, Carlo Pavesi, Alberto Pellegrino, Fiorenzo Marini, Gianluigi Saccaro Gold - Fencing: team épée

Edoardo Mangiarotti, Luigi Carpaneda, Alberto Pellegrino, Aldo Aureggi, Mario Curletto Silver - Fencing: team foil

Giuseppe Delfino Gold - Fencing: épée

Irene Camber, Antonella Ragno - Lonzi, Velleda Cesari, Bruna Colombetti, Claudia Pasini Bronze - Fencing: team foil

Roberto Ferrari, Giampaolo Calanchini, Wladimiro Calarese, Pierluigi Chicca, Mario Ravagnan Bronze - Fencing: team sabre

Abdon Pamich Bronze - Athletics: race walking 50km

Wladimiro Calarese Bronze - Fencing: individual sabre

Raimondo D'Inzeo, Piero D'Inzeo, Antonio Oppes Bronze - Equestrian Sports: team show jumping

Raimondo D'Inzeo Gold - Equestrian Sports: Nations Grand Prix

Piero D'Inzeo Silver - Equestrian Sports: Nations Grand Prix

Galliano Rossini Silver - Clay Pigeon Shooting

Antonio Ciciliano, Antonio Cosentino, Giulio De Stefano Bronze - Sailing: Dragon class

Sebastiano Mannironi Bronze - Weightlifting: Featherweight

Aldo Dezi, Francesco La Macchia Silver - Canoe C2: 1,000m