A Brief History
On September 10, 1960, Abebe Bikila, representing Ethiopia, became the first ever Sub-Saharan Black African to win an Olympic Gold Medal by taking first place in the ultimate event of the Summer Olympics, the Marathon race.
The 26.2-mile-long Marathon is a grueling race and is possibly the premier event of the Summer Olympics, but the fact that Bikila won the race while barefoot gives this story an entirely different angle!
Bikila was a last minute substitute runner and no shoes that fit were available for him, leading to his running barefoot. Nearly as incredible as the 1960 Olympic story, in 1964 Bikila came down with appendicitis and underwent an operation 40 days before the event, yet he once again won the Marathon and earned his second Olympic Gold Medal.
Sadly, Bikila became a quadriplegic after an auto accident in 1969 and died at the age of 41 in 1973.
Question for students (and subscribers): What Olympic story do you find to be the most bizarre? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Judah, Tim. Bikila: Ethiopia’s Barefoot Olympian. Reportage Press, 2009.
L:ovett, Charles. Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games’ Most Storied Race. Praeger, 1997.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Abebe Bikila winning the marathon at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, is in the public domain in the United States because it meets three requirements:
- it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days),
- it was first published before 1 March 1989 without copyright notice or before 1964 without copyright renewal or before the source country established copyright relations with the United States,
- it was in the public domain in its home country on the URAA date (January 1, 1996 for most countries).
The country of origin of this photograph is Italy. It is in the public domain there because its copyright term has expired. According to Law for the Protection of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights n.633, 22 April 1941 and later revisions, images of people or of aspects, elements and facts of natural or social life, obtained with photographic process or with an analogue one, including reproductions of figurative art and film frames of film stocks (Art. 87) are protected for a period of 20 years from creation (Art. 92). This provision shall not apply to photographs of writings, documents, business papers, material objects, technical drawings and similar products (Art. 87). Italian law makes an important distinction between “works of photographic art” and “simple photographs” (Art. 2, § 7). Photographs that are “intellectual work with creative characteristics” are protected for 70 years after the author’s death (Art. 32 bis), whereas simple photographs are protected for a period of 20 years from creation.
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