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"The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Sydney 2000 Edition"

by Harvey Frommer

Harvey Frommer - Click to Enlarge

Olympic Guidebook Review

Title: "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Sydney 2000 Edition"

Author: David Wallechinsky

Publisher, pages, price: Overlook Press, paperback, 928 pages, $23.95

When someone disputed a claim Casey Stengel made, the Ol' Professor took pleasure in responding: "Don't take my word for it. You can look it up."

You can take pleasure in looking it up in "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics." This new opus by David Wallechinsky has all matter of fascinating facts, fillers and figures, including a primer on the Sydney Games.

First introduced to the Olympics by his father, Irving Wallace, who took him to the Summer Games in Rome in 1960, Wallechinsky has gone on to make the Games his passion. He is NBC's radio commentator for the Olympics, the author of numerous Olympic reference works and clearly up to the task with this new book.

There is so much here: almost 2,000 anecdotes and marker moments, more than 200 highly interesting photographs of Olympic athletes, all the stats and rules for every summer sport throughout Olympic history.

From the official abbreviations for each country, through the list of discontinued sports (polo, tug-of-war, etc.), through the national medal total in each Olympics, through a short history of the modern Games, to a new feature on corruption and expulsions in the Olympic world, Wallechinsky touches all the bases.

Trivia, facts, highlights, tables, charts, rules, history all add up to a virtually Herculean job of research. The carefully organized format and the clear writing make for pleasurable and easy reading.

Just the way the author treats the individual sports is worth the price of the book. Most contain a brief description of terminology, scoring rules, and role in the Games. Thus, we learn that baseball "is the only sport to have been included as an exhibition or demonstration sport six times before finally achieving medal status in Barcelona in 1992."

There are also fascinating bits of Olympic insights that make for such wonderful browsing. For example, the film "Chariots of Fire" showed runner Eric Liddell learning at the last minute that Sunday was the day for the final of his specialty, the 100-meter dash. Here we learn that was movie magic. Liddell had gotten the news six months earlier.

We learn that Jack Kelly, father of Princess Grace of Monaco, won three gold medals in rowing in 1920 and 1924. We learn that in 1948, Alice Coachman of the USA was the first black woman to earn an Olympic gold. We learn about 72-year-old Oscar Swahn, the oldest competitor and medallist in Olympic history.

This is truly a gold-medal Olympic reference book. Winners, losers, behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes about such Olympic heroes as Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, Olga Korbut, Michael Johnson, Kerri Strug, Lance Armstrong they all are part of the Wallechinsky focus.

My one quibble is that an index or an expanded table of contents would have helped one find his or her way through the mass of material. But that is a small criticism for a book that is almost a thousand pages long.

As a companion to the Sydney Games, as a book for reference, browsing, argument-settling "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics" definitely belongs on your sports bookshelf.


"Carl Erskine's Tales From the Dodger Dugout" with a foreword by longtime broadcaster Vin Scully (Sports Publishing Inc., $19.55, 231 pages) is a look at the glory days of one of the great Brooklyn Dodgers. It is a wonderful read, rich in details about the dozen years he was a pitcher for Dem Bums.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
*Autographed copies of Frommer books are available .

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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