Return to Rio, or escape into fiction

with Saturday Savings 13.08.2016

MunichIn 1972, the Germans planned a spectacular celebration of sport in an effort to erase the bigotry that blazed in Berlin 36 years earlier . . . but Munich was marred by the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes and the massacre of hostages and terrorists at the airport afterward.

Richard Mandell, whose history of the 1936 Games was required reading for the organizers (and was featured here a week ago), had access to everything — participants, planners, sites — for three weeks. His The Olympics of 1972: a Munich Diary is a record of his impressions of the aesthetic, political, and athletic dimensions of the spectacle. It’s discounted today to 99 cents.

Mandell urged the organizers to cancel the games, but his diary isn’t aNazi Olympics history of the terrorist attack itself. Many of his observations are about design: the plastic roof that covered acres, the visual Esperanto of color-coded uniforms, the catalogs for the many art exhibitions, the newly devised “pictograms” directing visitors around the Olympic facilities that transformed Munich. Mandell also writes about modern sports equipment and about television and sport. He describes what he learned by watching training fields, saunas, and in the all-you-can-eat cafeterias and listening in on athletes’ conversations in the Olympic Village.

Peter Lovesey not only wrote the Peter Diamond mysteries (which Sis has Kings of Distancebeen reviewing), but he also wrote profiles of five long-distance runners from past Olympics:  The Kings of Distance, which is also on sale for 99 cents today. This history tells the stories of:

Deerfoot the Indian brave who successfully challenged the leading runners of Victorian England. In 1863, he set a record for distance covered in one hour that was only exceeded by a British amateur 90 years later.

George at the age of 19, in 1878, with the solitary distinction of joint first place in a walking race to his credit, announced that he would one day run a mile in 4 minutes 12 seconds, an achievement unbelievable at that time. Eight years later, having improved every world record, he officially attained his ambition in ‘The Mile of the Century’.

Shrubb, ‘The Irrepressible,’ discovered his running ability by accident, and made staggering records in the most unpromising conditions. His historic run in November 1904, created new world records for every distance from six to 11¾ miles.

Nurmi, at the Paris Olympic Games of 1924, achieved the never-to-be-repeated feat of winning both the 15,000 and 5,000 metre races within 1 hour and 20 minutes, and carried off four individual gold medals in the six days.

Zátopek so manifestly set himself apart from other distance runners that reporters named him ‘The Human Locomotive’, describing his races in two categories: one for Zátopek, the other for those who struggled far behind for second place. A strenuous training programme prepared him for the most extraordinary triple victory in the history of the Olympic Games.

BourneNot into the Games?  Well, Jason Bourne is back in theaters, and the first book in Robert Ludlum’s series is on sale, too, at $1.99.  The Bourne Identity is a classic suspense story, and, as fun as the film is, the book is better.

Description: His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators—led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.