Story of the Olympics


Jim Thorpe...Babe Didrikson...Jesse Owens...Michael Johnson...Tara Lipinski...the finest young athletes fighting in the fiercest competition. Pulitzer Prize -- winning sportswriter Dave Anderson chronicles the Olympic Games, from the ancient Greek festival of the history books to the ultimate international spectacle they are today. Here are the world's greatest athletes from track-and-field, from ice and slopes, from pool and arena. With dozens of action photographs that capture the thrill, the drama, the triumph...
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Jim Thorpe...Babe Didrikson...Jesse Owens...Michael Johnson...Tara Lipinski...the finest young athletes fighting in the fiercest competition. Pulitzer Prize -- winning sportswriter Dave Anderson chronicles the Olympic Games, from the ancient Greek festival of the history books to the ultimate international spectacle they are today. Here are the world's greatest athletes from track-and-field, from ice and slopes, from pool and arena. With dozens of action photographs that capture the thrill, the drama, the triumph that is the game of games -- the Olympics.

Traces the history of the Olympics from its beginning in 776 B.C. to the present and relates stories of particular events such as track and field, gymnastics, and speed skating.

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Editorial Reviews

This revised and expanded edition of the 1996 title includes the events and athletes of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The first half of the book is a loosely organized chronological history of the Olympic Games. The most memorable athletes through the ages are mentioned briefly, but more interesting are the descriptions of the athletes' roles in popular culture, the development of certain sports, and the historical and political climate surrounding certain Games. The remainder of the book focuses on the most popular Olympic sports and their stars. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Johnson, Kerri Strug, Amy Van Dyken, Tara Lipinski, Picabo Street, Bjorn Dahlie, and Kim Rhode are some of the newly featured athletes. Inconsistencies make this a book that does not flow well despite the interesting facts. Some photographs are placed ahead of the pages on which their subjects are described, and the sequence of Games within a chapter is not chronological and lacks any other logical arrangement. Those interested in track and field will find much to love in the first half of the book. Some rules are described in detail, such as how a tiebreaker is handled in figure skating. Other sections, such as diving, do not list the different types of diving events. Anderson's prose is readable, and middle school Olympics fans might enjoy this title. Libraries, however, should consider other titles currently available to add to the Olympic history books on the shelves. Illus. Photos. VOYA CODES: 2Q 4P M J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High,defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, HarperCollins, 168p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Julie Wilde

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Beginning with an inspirational foreword by Carl Lewis, this timely volume begins with a brief history of the Olympics. The next seven chapters comprise Part One, a chronological history of the games, while Part Two, also seven chapters, describes highlights in different sports. Many individual athletes are presented in both sections. For example, Jessie Owens appears in the historical section and Olga Korbut in the chapter on gymnastics. Anderson's style is lively and appealing. He includes dialogue as well as straightforward information. An index and 70 black and white photographs are included.
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Revised and expanded just in time for the 2000 Olympics, this extremely readable book is an excellent choice not just for schools and libraries, but for parents who want to watch the Olympics with their kids. Author Anderson won the Pulitzer Prize for sportswriting, and his obvious love for the Games shines through in his choice of stories to tell. And what stories they are! Babe Didrikson, Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Michael Johnson, Amy Van Dyken and other past and current heroes are presented as fully realized characters whose exploits are relevant even to those who normally wouldn't care about shot-putting or trap-shooting. Anderson captures the hard work and disappointments as well as the triumphs of these athletes, and their stories offer plenty of possibilities for classroom or family discussions about the value of doing your best. 2000 (orig. 1996), HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 8 to 12, $15.95 and $9.95. Reviewer: Donna Freedman—Children's Literature
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up-Anderson highlights personalities and gives readers a taste of the social and political climates of several eras and how they effected the Games. Part one looks at eight chapters of Olympic history, such as "1900-1912: Jim Thorpe and King Gustav," "1920-1932: The Babe and Tarzan," "1936-1948: Jesse Owens and Hitler," etc. The trials and tribulations of Olympic athletes such as Wilma Rudolph, Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis, Olga Korbut, and Greg Louganis are included in part two. Coverage is balanced between men and women, with the most attention going to popular sports such as track and field, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, and skiing. Only eight pages are devoted to other "minor" sports. The focus is primarily on athletes from the United States. Updates include events such as the pipe-bomb explosion at the 1996 Summer Games, 15-year-old Tara Lipinski's gold medal, and the first Olympic women's hockey competition at the 1998 Winter Games. This is not a comprehensive look at the Olympics, but will provide readers with a good background to begin their research, and for younger readers may be all that is required. Black-and-white photographs add to the text. Libraries that don't own the 1996 edition will want to purchase this book, especially with interest building for the 2000 Summer Games. It will be a supplemental purchase for those that already have the earlier title.-Michael McCullough, Byron-Bergen Middle School, Bergen, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-A thorough and detailed history of the Olympics is presented in spirited, readable prose. Anderson chronicles the development of the modern games, beginning with a brief description of their ancient origins. By focusing on the "stars'' of the Olympiads, the author offers not only a chronology of the events and the athletes, but also sheds light on the changing nature of the games. The book's format and index make it readily usable for research, while the readable text invites browsing. In addition to discovering details about medalists, readers learn how international politics and materialistic goals have interfered with the games' underlying premise. For example, the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes in 1972 and boycotts prompted by contemporary problems go counter to the ancient Greek practice of ceasing conflicts in order to hold the events. And the specter of drug use by athletes and the need to monitor for it detract from the original concept. However, what endures is the spirit of individuals persevering and triumphing in spite of obstacles. This is an engrossing story on many levels, and it will enhance any collection of books about the Olympics, along with other recent offerings such as Davida Kristy's Coubertin's Olympics (Lerner, 1995).-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Carolyn Phelan
Anderson hits the high spots in this survey of the Olympics. The first half of the book briefly describes the ancient Olympics and gives the history of the modern Olympics games, grouped into seven time periods from 1900 to 1994. The second part of the book looks at certain Olympic sports, such as track and field, gymnastics, and figure skating. Focusing on dramatic moments, this book offers short, readable vignettes rather than a comprehensive survey of the subject. The black-and-white photographs vary in quality. Not an essential purchase, but a possible choice for libraries looking to supplement in an Olympic year.
Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer Prizewinner Anderson presents the Olympics in a primer that is one-half history, one-half up-close-and-personal sketches of the athletes. The historical trail of the games leads to the occasional gem: Gold, silver, and bronze medals weren't awarded until the London games of 1908; Benjamin Spock competed as a rower in the 1924 games, long before he achieved fame in the field of pediatrics. It is the political perspective readers gain that is far more rewarding: Anderson shows how, despite the spirit of international cooperation, the Olympics have often been perverted for attempts at political gain, as during Hitler's 1936 Berlin games, and again during the 1972 Munich games, when terrorists murdered Israeli athletes. The discussion is hampered, however, by an uninspired chronological structure that shrinks each of the games down to a few paragraphs, reducing their drama. Likewise, the thumbnail sketches of such athletic stars as Dan Jansen, Peggy Fleming, and Carl Lewis (who also wrote the introduction) are less revealing than magazine articles, offering no sense of the inspiration that drove them to become Olympians. Anderson rushes over fundamental aspects of their stories while incorporating—not always smoothly—information about the development of their sports.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688167349
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Pages: 168
  • Age range: 10 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.25 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Dave Anderson has been a sportswriter for the New York Times since 1966 and one of its "Sports of the Times" columnists since 1971. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for distinguished commentary. Anderson has written twenty-one books and more than three hundred fifty magazine articles. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in Tenafly, New Jersey, with his wife, Maureen. They have four grown children: Stephen, Mark, Mary Jo, and Jean Marie.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In the Beginning

To Athens from Olympia

Nearly three thousand years later the Olympics are going home again, home to Greece, where they originated in 776 b.c., home to Athens, where the modern Olympics began in 1896.

"We will give the world the Olympics of their dreams," Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the first woman to head a successful Olympic site committee, said when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted the 2004 Summer Games to Greece's capital. "This is a promise Athens is destined to keep."

Destined by the heritage of Olympia itself.

The ancient Greeks believed that the gods inaugurated the games in the valley below Mount Olympus, their mythical abode, when Zeus pinned Cronos in wrestling, Apollo outboxed Ares and outran Hermes, and Heracles organized the first footraces. Olympia, the site of the first recorded ancient Olympics, was where both bodily strength and intellect were worshiped with the phrase "a healthy mind in a healthy body."

But before earning the IOC selection, Athens needed to realize that with the Olympics now as much big business as sport, heritage wasn't enough.

Athens had sought the 1996 Summer Games as its birthright to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the modern Olympics, but the IOC preferred Atlanta's promise of $1.4 billion in revenue. And for the 2000 Summer Games, the IOC chose Sydney, Australia.

At the IOC selection meeting for 2004 Athens guaranteed $1.6 billion in proceeds–including nearly $1 billion from the sale of international television and marketing rights, with the rest to come from ticket sales as well as local marketing andmerchandising.

Athens had already begun construction of most of its Olympic venues as well as $7 billion worth of public-works projects, including a new airport and subway to ease concerns about traffic and pollution. In the final vote Athens outpolled Rome, 66 to 41.

"When you get on an equal plateau," said Dick Pound of the IOC, "you get the benefit of tradition and sympathy."

The dazzling spectacle of the Olympics has been dulled by financial reality and by the expulsion of ten IOC members for accepting bribes and extravagant gifts in return for their votes in awarding Salt Lake City, Utah, the 2002 Winter Games. But the essence of the Olympics still exists: the romance of an athlete participating rather than winning, the torch relay across nations and continents that leads to the Olympic flame's burning during the sixteen days of competition, and the pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Competitors are inspired by the Olympic motto of Citius–Altius–Fortius, words in Latin that translate to "Faster–Higher–Stronger."

Originally, the Olympics were a religious experience. Held every four years in an era of almost constant conflict between towns and areas, the Olympics created a truce, a sacred month when athletes and spectators were allowed to travel safely to and from the games. In time the tiered stadium at Olympia held up to fifty thousand people.

However, the Olympics long ago outgrew their roots in Olympia. The first recorded ancient Olympics had only one event, a race of about two hundred yards, roughly the length of the primitive stadium.

The first Olympic champion, a young Greek named Coroebus, was crowned with a wreath woven from the leaves of the olive tree that Hercules, according to the Greek poets, had planted near the Temple of Zeus at Olympia in southwestern Greece.

By the Thirteenth Olympiad other sports had been added: the discus throw, boxing, wrestling, and chariot racing. Most winners wore their olive wreaths proudly and honestly, but others defied sportsmanship. In the Ninety-eighth Olympiad a boxer, Eupolus of Thessaly, was found guilty of bribing three opponents. Over the years several statues atop the Olympic stadium were financed by fines levied on erring athletes.

For years women were forbidden from competing in or even attending the Olympics, but eventually women were accepted. At the 128th Olympiad one of the winning drivers was a woman, Belisiche of Macedonia.

When the glory that was Greece eventually dissolved into the grandeur that was Rome, the Olympics changed. Champions demanded money or gifts. Some warring areas no longer observed a truce. Eventually, in a.d. 394, the Olympics were halted by decree of Theodosius I, the Roman emperor. Thirty years later Theodosius II ordered the leveling of the walls around the Olympia enclosure. About a century later earthquakes turned the historic area into ruins, and the rising Alpheus River flowed across what had been the Olympia plains.

The Olympics had ceased to exist, but their history endured, especially the lore of the marathon runner.

The marathon as such, now the grueling road race of 26 miles, 385 yards, that is one of the Olympics' signature events and an attraction in so many cities around the world, was not a part of the ancient Olympics, but it evolved from Greek history. When the Greek army routed invading Persians on the plains of Marathon in 490 b.c., a Greek soldier, Pheidippides, a heralded Athenian runner, was ordered to shed his armor and hurry with the news to Athens, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Already weary from the battle, he puffed along the dusty roads. Staggering into the streets of Athens, his feet cut and bleeding, he yelled, "Rejoice, we conquer!" With a last gasp Pheidippides dropped to the dirt and died.

When the Olympics were revived in 1896, the marathon that Pheidippides had inspired was included in what the Olympics call athletics, what Americans know as track and field. Fourteen centuries after the last of the ancient Olympics, a French promoter of physical education, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, had resurrected the Games.

"The revival of the Olympic Games," Coubertin once said, "will bring athleticism to a high state of perfection."

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Table of Contents

Part 1 In the Beginning: To Athens from Olympia 9
1900-1912: Jim Thorpe and King Gustav 16
1920-1932: The Babe and Tarzan 25
1936-1948: Jesse Owens and Hitler 35
1952-1960: The Soviet Invasion 44
1964-1972: Terrorists and Black Gloves 54
1976-1984: The Miracle in Lake Placid 64
1988-1998: The Dream Team 75
Part 2 Track and Field: Wanting to Be the Best 91
Gymnastics: Cartwheels and Courage 102
Swimming/Diving: Mark of Excellence 113
Figure Skating: Ballet on Ice 123
Skiing: Down the Mountains 132
Speed Skating: Queen and King of Hearts 142
Other Sports: When a Medal Is a Medal 151
Why Are the Olympics So Popular? 159
Index 161
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