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Sir Rols

Olympic Book Reviews

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There's been a few mentions lately of some of the classic books about the Olympics and the IOC, like Jennings' and such, and was wondering lately what particular books about the olympics they recommend, or what they think about some of the standard references. What do members think are some of the better books about the games?

Anyway, I've a nice solid library of tomes about the games at home, have been reading such volumes for decades, and thought I might start a reviews thread to share some of my thoughts about books about the games, and which Id recommend everyone read. Maybe spark some disagreements.

To get it started:

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The Lords of the Rings/The New Lords of the Rings

By Vyv Simson & Andrew Jennings

The Great Olympic Swindle

By Andrew Jennings

3/5

Is there any one here who hasn’t read these? Surely compulsory reading among all interested in the IOC and host city bidding. And salaciously readable in all its documentation of the dark side and sleazy recent history of the lords of Lausanne. Yet, for all Jennings' (he's the one that kept the vendetta going) perfect hits, I think his blind adversity lead him into as many misses of his marks. He’s the Pilger or Michael Moore of Olympic journalism, and share their same propensity for never letting balance get in the way of sheer polemics and propaganda. And while they are a welcome, refreshing “balance for some of the more hagiographical studies of the IOC” as Eusebius recently put it, in the end, they let their venom get in the way of objectivity.

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Athens to Athens

By David Miller

3/5

Actually, I think there’s an “Athens to Beijing” version of this book out now, but assume it’s just an updated final chapter. Miller’s a bit of a worry when it comes to Olympic journalism. He’s been a shameless propagandist and unofficial personal "Poet Laureate"(see his Olympic Revolution book) for JAS and was ensconced in some ethical scandal arising from his Olympic journalism. And while this book is true to form in shying from making any too strong critiques of the IOC, it’s one of the more detailed and accessible recordings of the earlier history of the IOC as a body, right back to when it was a twinkling in the dapper Baron de Coubertin’s eyes. A great source for obscure facts and stories from early bidding histories and IOC turf wars, it tends to be best when chronicling the history of the Olympics and IOC up to the end of the Brundage-Killanin eras. It also tries to cover the sporting highlights of individual games, but is more impressionistic in this – almost like a Greenspan movie. The odd obvious factual clanger too also limits its reliability as an unimpeachable source.

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Inside The Olympics

By Dick Pound

4.5/5

I’ve often enough mentioned before that if I had to choose just one book to recommend as a “Bible” for anyone interested in Olympic politics and bidding, this is it. By the man who’s been at the centre of it all – from TV negotiations to doping scandals and policing, to whole gamut of host bidding politics, this comes across as straight talking and blunt as the Pound does himself. And it also conveys his wry sense of humour – his quotes from Samaranch using His Excellency’s accent are often hilarious. Pound’s not afraid to point out some home truths and set bald facts out plainly and probably portrays an organisation that I believe is close to the real things – a body based on ideals that also has to operate in a world of hard-headed realism, politics and commercialism.

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... and don't think I'd leave you out, M.

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Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies

By Myles A. Garcia

4/5

Dare I criticise GamesBids nobility? Thank God I don’t have to. This is a great tome that I’ve already described as “GamesBids, The Book”. The rare factual nitpick aside, which I’d have fun in debating over with M., he sure knows his stuff and has mined a huge array of source material to come up with one of the most readable and fascinating compilations of facts and trivia about the Olympics in general and ceremonies in particular. And if M’s not shy of stating his opinion, he backs it up well.

And not to mention, that outside the Aldaver and some other specialist web sites, it’s probably the best printed compendium of facts and images of Olympic graphics and iconography, a subject too often neglected in other historical tomes, but a neverending source of fascination to a large section of the GamesBids membership at any time.

Edited by Sir Roltel

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Olympic Babylon

By Pat Sheil

2.5/5

This how the Jennings books would be if commissioned and written by the National Enquirer or the London Sun. Not so much an examination of Olympic scandal as a wallowing in some of the greatest and most salacious Olympic related disgraces over the years. From the weirdos to the cheats and the drugs scandals to the sex scandals, thi is tabloid Olympic history at its juiciest and shallowest.

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The Bid: How Australia Won The 2000 Games

By Rod McGeoch with Glenda Korporaal

3.5/5

There’s a small library of books these days from bid insiders and leaders from various bids spilling their secrets to success. Of course, I probably feel more affinity to this one – describing Sydney’s bid – over others, and many of the episodes it outlines are still strong in my memory. But in my view still one of the best insider tales of the bidding circus. Rod, who led Sydney’s bid for 2000, ghost-wrote this when he ceased to have any role in SOCOG, so it’s a good mix of the tactics and strategies considered, planned and put into place, plus the politics and rivalries that beset any bid (or organisation). Not as much dirt as could have perhaps ben hoped for, but a good Basic First Reader for Aspiring Bid Cities.

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The Complete Book of the Olympics

By David Wallechinsky

3.5/5

Updated and reprinted for each Olympiad, and with a separate Winter Edition now, most of us would know this as THE authoritative almanac for Olympic results, and a description of competition, for each and every Olympic event over the years. I don’t bother buying it each time – too big and here it’s quite pricey (I’m on the 2004 edition at the moment) but worth updating every decade or so. Just a very handy reference to have, even if it can be dry as dust in its compilation of results and statistics. I’m a bit disappointed Wallechinsky hasn’t updated his earlier chapters – dealing with the Olympics overall and specific issues drom doping to politics to sports to gigantism – in a while. He really hasn’t updated these at all since the Samaranch era.

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Asterix at the Olympic Games

By Rene Goscinny and Aldert Uderzo

3/10

I absolutely loved this when I was 10 or 11 years old. With Asterix and Cleopatra, it was my favourite of the series on the Indominable Gauls. It sure appealed to one who was both a history and Olympics buff even then. And it's interesting that this is one of the titles that theyve turned into a movie.

Funny thing is though, much as their nostalgia value make them dear to me, I just recently was helping a Chinese-speaking friend, who is learning English, try to read the book and appreciate the jokes. And it came home clearly how dated they are now, and how (in the English language versions at least) the jokes were almost totally reliant of lame puns and a smidgin of ironic latin sayings.

Edited by Sir Roltel

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Thank you, Rol. You are too kind. I really wished SECRETS could've come out as a coffee-table book size and perhaps better clarity in some of the visuals.

Calling a U.K. publisher out there who needs a best seller for 2012, you know where to reach me... ;)

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Great Idea Roltel - I'll add a couple of reviews when I get round to it.

Baron - can I still buy your book direct from you?!

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Great Idea Roltel - I'll add a couple of reviews when I get round to it.

Baron - can I still buy your book direct from you?!

Is the Pope Catholic? SURE!!

PM me with your email.

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The Bid: How Australia Won The 2000 Games

By Rod McGeoch with Glenda Korporaal

3.5/5

There’s a small library of books these days from bid insiders and leaders from various bids spilling their secrets to success. Of course, I probably feel more affinity to this one – describing Sydney’s bid – over others, and many of the episodes it outlines are still strong in my memory. But in my view still one of the best insider tales of the bidding circus. Rod, who led Sydney’s bid for 2000, ghost-wrote this when he ceased to have any role in SOCOG, so it’s a good mix of the tactics and strategies considered, planned and put into place, plus the politics and rivalries that beset any bid (or organisation). Not as much dirt as could have perhaps ben hoped for, but a good Basic First Reader for Aspiring Bid Cities.

I really enjoyed this book and have a copy on my book shelf.

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Sports in the Global Village

Ralph C. Wilcox, editor

This isn't an 'Olympic' book, per se, but its full of really great articles. I've referenced it several times in my own research. It's and older book (published in 1994), but it's still got some great things, and, in a few instances, takes a more ethnographic approach to sports, especially in terms of American and European culture. Of special interest to me was the case study of the affect of glasnost on Estonian sports - a great article by Reet Howell. Actually, a large amount of the book is given to the study of sport in Eastern Europe and the (at the time) newly defunct Soviet Union. This wont be on interest to anyone with an interest purely in Olympic bidding, but for anything with broader or more academic interests, this book is an absolute must read.

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Olympische Siege by Karl Lennartz (Athens 1896 - Sydney 2000) - publishing house: Sportverlag Berlin

This book is a wonderful mixture of reference data, stories, original torch relay maps, pics, medals, diplomas, honours...

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Power, Politics, and the Olympic Games

By Aldred E. Senn

3/5

I picked this up in a second hand bookshop a whole ago, so doubt it's still in print. Bit it does seem to be available in some sources over the net. It's a pretty academic tome, probably written around the time Olympic Studies courses started appearing in universities, but it's a good analysis of how the Games and the IOC have played out in a political world, with special emphasis on the Berlin 36 games and the Cold War years (indeed, it was published in 1999 so only goes up to Nagano and covers none of the Rogge era). However, in those periods it's pretty comprehensive - tending to dry - in its compilation of the dealings between the IOC, national governments, NOCs and other political groups. And it tends to be fairly neutral - if it does try to push a point, it's not much beyond the notion that the games are a huge sporting, entertainment and social undertaking, and as such the IOC has had to learn to accommodate itself in a highly political world. Hardly earth-shattering conclusion, but a very good reference source in how the IOC and the games dealt with the chief political tides of the 20th century.

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The Olympics at the Millennium

Edited by Kay Schaffer & Sidonie Smith

3.5/5

This is another that was produced for Olympics Studies courses, in this case in Australia in the lead-up to 2000, and again I found it in a bargain bin somewhere. It's actually a collection of essays from numerous writers, from olympic athletes to academics, touching on a whole array of issues from politics to gender issues to doping to bidding to ceremonies up to the Aboriginal attitudes towards the Sydney Games. These are of mixed interest and quality, but there's some gems in there, including essays from Jewish athletes who competed in Berlin to a look at the career of the great Jim Thorpe to explanations of how the Scandinavians actually held up and obstructed the formation of the Winter Games in the early part of the 20th century and how the Gay Games were created and what they aim to achieve. One of my favourites was a simple description by an Australian women athlete of her experiences at the Rome Games, and the gender issues that afflicted women sports in those days. Maybe a bit dated, and probably a good third or more of its focus is on Sydney, but a worthwhile book to dip in and out of.

Edited by Sir Roltel

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A few Olympic themed novels:

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Rainbow Six

By Tom Clancy

2.5/5

Tom Clancy can be very readable when he sticks to what he does best - thriller scenarios where he can show off his encyclpedic knowledge of military (and in particular US military) hardware. It's when he ventures out of the hardware realm he falls flat on his face. Not one of his Jack Ryan series (but with references to those), this is a counter-terrorism thriller that shifts from England to the US to Spain to ... well, Sydney 2000 and a plan to spread a global doomsday virus at the Games. Silly enough premise, but Clancy really doesn't do local colour convincingly or well, and comes across as a Clueless American tourist quoting from guide books and street directories when the action moves away from Annapolis and Langley. His observations seldom go deeper than "they smoke in bars, not like at home ... and they speak English, sort-of". In truth, he really has only been going through the motions since "Red October".

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The Runner

By Peter May

4/5

This is part of a series about a Beijing homicide detective, Li Yan, and his American forensic surgeon lover, Margaret Campbell. Think Arkady Renko meets Silence of the Lambs in Olympic Beijing. This particular one, among about six, follows the investigation of a series of deaths of top Chinese athletes in the run-up to the Beijing Games. Naturally it all gets entwined up in a world of corruption, sporting conspiracies, China versus US rivalries and the limits to crime investigation in a totalitarian country. Totally readable, gritty but also light and fun. It reads convincingly and even manages to raise a few a hard questions about popular western conceptions of China and its repressions.

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Berlin Noir

By Phillip Kerr

4.5/5

Talking about the genre of totalitarian state criminal detectives, this series is one of my favourites. This book is a collection of three stories following a Berlin private detective (and ex-Kripo homicide investigator) Bernie Gunther in 1930s Berlin. The first book of the series, "The March Violets" is set during the Berlin Olympics, and twists furiously from trackside at Jesse Owens' triumphs at the Olympia Stadion to the cells of Alexanderplatz to the dressing rooms at UFA to the lakes around Wannsee. And of course, what starts off as a seemingly innocuous criminal investigation soon turns into a major intrigue reaching up to the top levels of the SS. Great fun, great old style detective action with a Nazi Berlin setting and an Olympic angle. The other two stories in this series are great as well, taking Bernie to 1938 and 1946, and two more Bernie Gunther tales are in the process of being published (and eagerly anticipated by me).

Edited by Sir Roltel

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Das Olympia-Buch Athen 1896 - Athen 2004 (The Olympic Book Athens 1896 - Athens 2004)

Issued by the Delius Klasing publishing company and German Olympic TV network ARD in 2004

4/5

Of course, summing up 27 (or rather 24) editions of the Summer Olympic Games (they had only an Athens preview in it, since the book was published in the spring of 2004) on "only" 360 pages is an impossible task, but nevertheless the publishers managed it in a very convincing fashion. All the most important stories of the respective Games are in it, with portrayals of the athletes, with great pictures and with a list of all Summer Olympic medallists till the Sydney Games. I remember how much I anticipated that book in 2004 as an appetizer for the equally-anticipated Athens Games and how happy I was to finally flip through the pages and suck that great Olympic history in. By the way, the book is mostly the German translation of the 2003 L'Equipe book "D'Athènes à Athènes 1896-2004" which some of the French members here might know. For the German edition, they added an article about the history of the Olympic Movement in Germany.

It's still a book I love to read in from time to time.

Furthermore, I still love (and miss) the book series of ZDF sportscaster Rudi Cerne about the editions of the Olympic Games in the more recent past. Sadly, they cancelled the series after the Athens 2004 Games, and since then I have to rely on the slightly less impressive books by another ZDF sportscaster, Kristin Otto (six-time Olympic Champion in swimming in 1988) and old GDR sportscaster Heinz Florian Oertel.

Here's a picture of my first book from Rudi Cerne's series -- and still my favourite Olympic book in my small collection, since it reminds me of a truly fantastic edition of the Olympic Games.

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100 Jahre Olympische Spiele by Karl Adolf Scherer (1995) - publishing house: Harenberg

Another wonderful book about the Olympic Games - it is full of stories, background infos, referenes, pics etc. etc.

Edited by Citius Altius Fortius

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The Race for the 2012 Olympics

By Mike Lee

3/5

I came across this in a library he other day and grabbed it. It's up there with Rob McGeoch's book on the Sydney bid as an insider's account of a bid race, in this case by London 2012's bid Communications manager Mike Lee. Not as engaging and a bit drier than the McGeoch book, but an interesting comparison with the earlierone in ow bid campaigns have evolved over the past decade or so. I assume partly because Mike wrote it, and partly because how campaigning has changed post-Salt Lake City, it's very much more focussed on the PR and marketing side of the bid and how London strove to brand itself and present a compelling case to come from behind and take the prize from Paris (which is rankly admitted as the chief, if not only realistic rival, throughout the book). It repeates itself a lot, and I also got annoyd how Lee writes of himself in the third person and makes himself virtually the centre of the bid and all decisions. It's a good account of the winning come-from-behind strategy, and brings back many memories of incidents and dramas from a campaign I followed keenly and closely on GamesBids, but ultimately I wuld have liked to se a bit more franknes and a bit more about the politics, within and without the bid, and the IOC.

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I have just started reading The Montreal Olympics: An Insider's View of Organizing a Self-Financing Games

By: Paul Charles Howell ISBN: 9780773535183 AUG 2009

Interesting so far from in insider point of view and it starts from the bid and has lots of info on the finances of the games. I always thought that the Canadian people had only just finished paying off these games but sound like this might be a bit of government spin

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This is a great idea for a thread, let's not let if fall to wayside. I'll add some new reviews in the upcoming days.

Has anyone read "The Time of Our Lives: Inside the Sydney Olympics?" I'm considering buying it, but haven't been able to read any reviews!

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Olympic Architecture: Building Sydney 2000

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This is really a must have for anyone that is a fan of the Olympics, Sydney 2000, or just architecture in general. Each venue is given its own section in the book and in then chronicled from the first design sketches to the completed structure. This really sheds light on the parts of Homebush park that many of us never got to see when we watched the Games on television (and even if you were there as well). Even seemingly mundane aspects such as the lighting pylons are given eyeopening coverage. The book it quite large and full of amazing pictures, so it's a great addition to anyone's coffee table or bookshelf.

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This is a great idea for a thread, let's not let if fall to wayside. I'll add some new reviews in the upcoming days.

Has anyone read "The Time of Our Lives: Inside the Sydney Olympics?" I'm considering buying it, but haven't been able to read any reviews!

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Of course, I couldn't NOT have that in my collection. It's more of an update by Harry Gordon, Australia's best-known Olympic historian, to his previous magnus opus, Australia at the Olympic Games, which is a pretty comprehensive tome covering just about every dealing Australia has had with the Olympics since 1896. The good thing is, he manages to cover both the sporting aspects - all the great athlete performances etc - as well as Australia's dealings with the IOC and its various bids etc. The first book goes up to about 1992, and Time of Our Lives picks up from the Sydney bid, the preparations, the 2000 Games themselves, and Australia's breakthrough to become a winter medallist from SLC. Both are very comprehensive - and still very readable, at least to an Aussie who lived through and observed just about all the events covered in the second book (Time of Our Lives). Not sure how enjoyable someone from outside Oz would find it, though. I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of any non-Aussies who've read it.

Edited by Sir Rols

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Of course, I couldn't NOT have that in my collection. It's more of an update by Harry Gordon, Australia's best-known Olympic historian, to his previous magnus opus, Australia at the Olympic Games, which is a pretty comprehensive tome covering just about every dealing Australia has had with the Olympics since 1896. The good thing is, he manages to cover both the sporting aspects - all the great athlete performances etc - as well as Australia's dealings with the IOC and its various bids etc. The first book goes up to about 1992, and Time of Our Lives picks up from the Sydney bid, the preparations, the 2000 Games themselves, and Australia's breakthrough to become a winter medallist from SLC. Both are very comprehensive - and still very readable, at least to an Aussie who lived through and observed just about all the events covered in the second book (Time of Our Lives). Not sure how enjoyable someone from outside Oz would find it, though. I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of any non-Aussies who've read it.

I was hoping more for a "tell all" book about the Games. More like Furlong's "Patriot Hearts" or Mitt Romney's "Turnaround." Did Sandy Hollway (or anyone else) write a book after it was all over?

The Fire Within: Salt Lake 2002

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5/5

This has to be one of most beautiful books on the Olympic Games I've ever seen. SLOC commissioned 12 photographers to capture the games on film as this book was the made as a gift for sponsors, employees, and officials. I've heard only 2,500 were ever made, but can't confirm that. Each sport is given a separate chapter that combines a summary of the competition, quotes from athletes, and the amazing images. Chapters are also dedicated to the ceremonies, medals plaza, and arts festivals. The photographes rang from high energy action shots or quiet reflective poses before or after the athlete's turn on the ice. This is by far the highest quality publication I've ever seen from any OCOG, and it's the highlight of my Olympic library.

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