Looking Back at Four Days of the AAR’s 1960 Rome Olympic Games Conference

At the AAR, Rafer Johnson’s 1960 Gold Medal for the decathlon, and the Rome Olympic torch

“It was off the proverbial hook.” That was how AAR Mellon Professor Corey Brennan FAAR’88 described The 1960 Rome Olympic Games Conference, which he organized under the auspices of the Academy for 30 September-2 October. An additional event—a book presentation of the new Italian edition of David Maraniss’ Rome 1960followed on the evening of Monday 4 October.

That took place at the renowned Roman athletic and cultural club Reale Circolo Canottieri Tevere Remo, and was moderated by RCCTR Socio Massimo Guerrieri Paleotti. The evening event featured contributions by Brennan, Federigo Argentieri (John Cabot University), and author and politician Massimo Teodori, as well as a presentation by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss himself.

It was David Maraniss who had inaugurated the conference with a keynote speech at the Centro Studi Americani (CSA) on Thursday 30 September. Introducing Maraniss were CSA President (and two-time Prime Minister of Italy) Giuliano Amato and International Olympic Committee Vice President Mario Pescante.

Gathering for the inaugural session of the conference in the Sala di Pietro da Cortona at the Centro Studi Americani

At the opening session, from left: David Maraniss, Giuliano Amato, Corey Brennan, Mario Pescante

Friday 1 October featured a full day of paper sessions at the American Academy, topped by an evening screening—indeed world premiere—of the new Cinecittà Luce documentary, Sul Filo di Lana: Roma a la sua Olimpiade. The film was directed by noted documentarian Leonardo Tiberi, who was on hand to introduce his work to the overflow crowd, which included many members of the Friends of the Academy in Italy. The Rome Sustainable Food Project provided artiginal beer on tap and free popcorn to the audience packed into the Founders’ Court of the AAR.

World premiere of 2010 Cinecittà Luce documentary Sul Filo di Lana in AAR forecourt

And throughout the Friday participants could view an extraordinary exhibit of Rome 1960 ephemera from the collections of prolific sports author Marco Impiglia and 1960 Olympian Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi (200m breaststroke), who competed for Italy at the record-breaking age of 12. Impiglia, who curated the show, used much of this material to inform his impressive new book, L’Olimpiade dal volto umano, a 1200+ page treatise on the 1960 Games.

Top: Gloves from Rome 1960 boxing competition in ephemera exhibition curated by Marco Impiglia. Below: CNN Rome Bureau Producer Hada Messia interviews Rafer Johnson at AAR Olympics exhibition

The program on Saturday 2 October started bright and early with an extensive didactic walk through the Olympic Village and the competition areas of the Foro Italico with 1960 gold medal winners Rafer Johnson (decathlon) and Lucinda Williams Adams (4X100m relay), plus Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi. CNN was on hand to film some of the more dramatic moments involving Rafer Johnson. Facilitating the site visits were Paolo Pedinelli (Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano = CONI) and Corey Brennan, with architects/architectural historians Manuel Cresciani (Northumbria) and Simona Salvo (Università di Camerino) providing expert guidance in the Olympic Village area.

Top: Corey Brennan explicates mosaic plan in architect Luigi Moretti’s Piazzale dell’Impero (1937). Below, being filmed from left: Paolo Pedinelli (CONI), current Fellow Elizabeth Robinson, architect Tomasso Magnifico (nephew of Luigi Moretti).

At the Stadio dei Marmi, 1960 Olympians Lucinda Williams Adams (left), Rafer Johnson, Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi. Credit: Anne Coulson

The Saturday continued in the afternoon with athletes’ narratives and paper sessions at Foro Italico, in CONI’s overwhelming Salone d’Onore in Palazzo H; an open discussion of Rome’s bid for the 2020 Olympics moderated by Fausto Milano (Reale Circolo Canottieri Tevere Remo) brought the conference proper to a close.

The Salone d’Onore of CONI, dominated by Luigi Montanarini’s 1936 mural “L’Apoteosi del Fascismo”

Then it was off to another wing of Palazzo H for an elegant reception at the breathtaking palaestra of the Università di Roma ‘Foro Italico’.

From left at the Università di Roma ‘Foro Italico’, Linda Maraniss, Lucinda Williams Adams, Andrew Kranis FAAR’09, Simon Martin, David Maraniss

Presenting papers at the conference were Manuel Cresciani (Northumbria), Alicia Imperiale (Temple), Ann Keen (Rutgers), Rita Liberti (Cal State, East Bay), Judith Grant Long (Harvard), Marzia Marandola (Roma ‘Tor Vergata’), Simon Martin (Hertfordshire/British School at Rome), Susan Schafer (Institute of Fine Arts, NYU), Marida Talamona (Roma Tre), and Nadia Zonis (CUNY). Their contributions variously discussed the planning, architecture, urbanistic aspects, media representations, and social and political impact of the Rome 1960 Olympics.

Presiding at various sessions of the conference were Christopher S. Celenza (AAR), Maria Grazia D’Amelio (Roma ‘Tor Vergata’), Bruno De Lisi and Fausto Milano (both of the Reale Circolo Canottieri Tevere Remo), Mario Pescante (IOC), Fabio Pigozzi (Roma ‘Foro Italico’), and Simona Salvo (Camerino).

A detailed schedule of the proceedings for this multi-day, multi-location, multi-disciplinary conference can be found here; see further below in this post for a selection of photos from the four days of activities.

Collaborating with the American Academy in Rome for the conference and its associated events were the British School at Rome, Centro Studi Americani, Cinecittà Luce, Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano, Embassy of the United States of America (which also generously provided financial support), Reale Circolo Canottieri Tevere Remo, and Università degli Studi di Roma “Foro Italico”.

AAR Programs Assistant Giulia Barra and Senior Programs Associate Anne Coulson as well as Paolo Pedinelli (CONI Servizi) played key roles in organizing this conference; AAR NY Office Associate Director of Development Jennifer Dudley, Vice President for Development Elizabeth Gray Kogen, and Director of External Affairs Milena Sales also provided valuable assistance. The one-day exhibition of Rome 1960 ephemera was expertly installed by Stefano Silva.

Special thanks are owed to Caterina Borelli, Mario Capuano (Unione Italiana Collezionisti Olimpici e Sportivi), Bruno De Lisi (Tevere Remo), Federica Fagnani (Roma ‘Foro Italico’), Vera Fazio (Cinecittà Luce), Marco Impiglia, Nancy Hart, arch. Tomasso Magnifico, Linda Maraniss, David Mees (Embassy of the United States), Karim Mezran (Director, Centro Studi Americani), Fausto Milano (Tevere Remo), Vicki Serianni, and especially to AAR Trustee Richard L. Grubman and his wife Caroline Mortimer for their crucial support of and participation in The 1960 Rome Olympic Games Conference.

Thursday 30 September: Rafer Johnson, Mario Pescante, David Maraniss

Thursday 30 September: AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor FAAR’84, AAR Trustee Richard Grubman, AAR Director Christopher S. Celenza FAAR’94

Thursday 30 September: David Maraniss, Lucinda Williams Adams; far right, Rafer Johnson

Friday 1 October: Marida Talamona (left) speaking with Simona Salvo

Friday 1 October: from left, AAR Trustee Richard Grubman, David Maraniss, Caroline Mortimer, Nancy Hart

Friday 1 October: From left, Vice Rector of Università di Roma ‘Foro Italico’ Fabio Pigozzi, Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi (wearing jacket from her 1960 official uniform), Raimondo Astarita

Friday 1 October: Elizabeth Minchilli (founder and co-chair, Friends of the Academy in Italy) with 1960 ‘fiaccola’

Saturday 2 October: AAR group (to right) visits Pier Luigi Nervi’s Palazzetto dello Sport. Credit: Michael Waters

Manuel Cresciani explicates Nervi’s iconic Corso di Francia viaduct

Saturday 2 October: Exploring the Olympic Village. Top: the former women’s sector. Middle: former men’s housing for Germany, Austria, France. Bottom (Credit, Michael Waters): athletes recall the Social Center of the Olympic Village.

Once the Olympic athletes’ Social Center and as such the epicenter of 1960 Olympic Village community life, this hexagonal building is now a Carrefour supermarket. Credit: Michael Waters

Outside the ex-USA men’s quarters in the Olympic Village. Top: Rafer Johnson. Below: Lucinda Williams Adams, Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi.

Credit: Michael Waters

At the Piscina Coperta—training pool for the 1960 Olympics—swimmer Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi.

Recalling gold medal victories at the Stadio Olimpico, Rafer Johnson (top) and Lucinda Williams Adams (center, bottom)

Monday 4 October, at Reale Circolo Canottieri Tevere Remo: Giancarlo Guerrini (gold medal, 1960 Italian water polo team); Lucinda Williams Adams

Entering the Stadio dei Marmi on 25 August 1960, the US Olympic team with Rafer Johnson as flagbearer

In the Stadio dei Marmi, the Tennessee State Tigerbelles who took home gold in the 4X100m relay. From left, Wilma Rudolph, Lucinda Williams (Adams), Barbara Jones, Martha Hudson

Rome 1960: Luciana Marcellini Hercolani-Gaddi

From the palaestra of Università di Roma ‘Foro Italico’, with Monte Mario, Stadio dei Marmi (below) and the Farnesina (to right)


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