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HOW THE 1960 OLYMPICS CHANGED AMERICA


Bernice Moore
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How the 1960 Olympics Changed America

It is not often that sports intersect with the larger world in any meaningful way. But 50 years ago this week, at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, it did.

That year may now be viewed through the soft-focus lens of romantic nostalgia for the "American Century" at its peak, but that was not the prevailing mood of the moment. National confidence was still reeling from the shock of the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, reinforcing Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's boast the year before that "We will bury you." Pundits (not that they were called that at the time—there were so few of them that they could be identified by name) worried about America's loss of "national purpose" and lack of resolve to face the challenges ahead. A big power summit conference in May had broken up in the aftermath of the shoot down of the U-2 spy plane over Russia and the easily disproved cover story that had been the US's first response to that incident. The fate of two small islands off the coast of China ( "Red China," as we called it)—Quemoy and Matsu—was thought sufficiently momentous to merit going to the brink of all-out war. Cuba was slipping out of the American orbit, and it was Soviet collectivism rather than Western capitalism that was being embraced by the Third World as the surest route to economic development.

It was all grist for the presidential campaign that year of Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy. Kennedy pledged to get America moving again, and overcome the complacency and inertia that led people around the world (according to a poll that Kennedy cited over and over) to rate the future strength of the Soviet Union ahead of that of the United States. "We are losing the respect of the peoples of the world," Kennedy argued. It was a theme that would be echoed in Barack Obama's campaign—although in 1960 the Democratic candidate said that the cause of the problem was an America that was not assertive enough, and in 2008 the argument was that the United States had been too assertive.

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/09/how-the-1960-olympics-changed-america/62471/

b

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How the 1960 Olympics Changed America

It is not often that sports intersect with the larger world in any meaningful way. But 50 years ago this week, at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, it did.

That year may now be viewed through the soft-focus lens of romantic nostalgia for the "American Century" at its peak, but that was not the prevailing mood of the moment. National confidence was still reeling from the shock of the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, reinforcing Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's boast the year before that "We will bury you." Pundits (not that they were called that at the time—there were so few of them that they could be identified by name) worried about America's loss of "national purpose" and lack of resolve to face the challenges ahead. A big power summit conference in May had broken up in the aftermath of the shoot down of the U-2 spy plane over Russia and the easily disproved cover story that had been the US's first response to that incident. The fate of two small islands off the coast of China ( "Red China," as we called it)—Quemoy and Matsu—was thought sufficiently momentous to merit going to the brink of all-out war. Cuba was slipping out of the American orbit, and it was Soviet collectivism rather than Western capitalism that was being embraced by the Third World as the surest route to economic development.

It was all grist for the presidential campaign that year of Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy. Kennedy pledged to get America moving again, and overcome the complacency and inertia that led people around the world (according to a poll that Kennedy cited over and over) to rate the future strength of the Soviet Union ahead of that of the United States. "We are losing the respect of the peoples of the world," Kennedy argued. It was a theme that would be echoed in Barack Obama's campaign—although in 1960 the Democratic candidate said that the cause of the problem was an America that was not assertive enough, and in 2008 the argument was that the United States had been too assertive.

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/09/how-the-1960-olympics-changed-america/62471/

b

Bernice

That brought back some good memories .I was an impressionable young boy in the sixties and I did not believe there was anything that the Americans could not do .I was mad about science and was allowed to stay up late to watch the launches by NASA and listen to the BBC updates early in the morning.Alas here we are 50 years on and both our countries have struggled to achieve the aims of its peoples.But there is always the future.

Ian

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hi ian;

yes looking back i think they had us all somewhat science crazy, we watched every launch my father would not allow you not to, and the landings news info on all etc, plus, do you recall at night going out late on the front lawns in the dark, looking for sputniks lights blinking, travelling across the night sky,he did not want to miss the future, he thought that the new generation was going to see miraculous happenings, and inventions , discoveries, well they have and did but also they have seen much tragedy also,which i guess when looking at history, is par for the course, the good with the bad, but it certainly has been a wonderful, though at times also a horrendous sorrowful 50 years..it has been quite a ride....thanks take good care b

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/K/KSC.html

Edited by Bernice Moore
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