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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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July 21, 2008 3:37 PM

The new Wallechinsky tome -- a capable Beijing companion

Posted by Ron Judd


That was the sound of the latest edition of "The Complete Book of the Olympics" hitting the front doorstep last week.

The new edition of David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky's Summer Games bible is huge -- almost 1,200 pages. That's one for every cliche about to be uttered by an expert commentator for NBC during the next four weeks.

We're not sure about the exact source of the inflation, other than adding one more Olympics' results, of course. Our 2000 Sydney edition of the book weighs in at just over 900 pages, and we can't compare the Athens version because someone stole our copy somewhere in France. (A check of the record says it was 1,152 pages.) Suffice to say that if we were headed for Beijing, this baby might not be coming with us. Customs inspection is almost guaranteed: You could hollow the thing out and smuggle several small gymnasts inside it.

At any rate: The book truly is, as the cover suggests, a "treasure trove of lore, drama and anecdote from 112 years of Olympic history," including the top eight finishers from every Summer Olympic event since 1896.

If you're not familiar with the book, it's basically the bible on Olympic results of the past. Wallechinsky, the son of writer Irving Wallace, tells the history of the Games in sport-by-sport fashion, providing an overview of each event, its results through the years, and historical notes of interest along the way. Truly memorable events get lengthier treatment, and historical photos are a nice touch.

There's a lot in here, and, as usual, it's not always easy to find. The book has long cried for an authoritative index, which would turn it from an occasional, rainy-day read to an at-the-fingertips reference for journalists and Olympi-philes alike. Although, granted, it would be a whopper of an index, given all the names here, just adding to the bulk.

But the new book, published by Aurum of London, does have some organizational upgrades. Gone are the confusing former groupings of sports by individuals, teams, etc.; sports now (at least after track and field, which comes first perhaps because of its old designation as "Athletics"?) are listed alphabetically, making it much easier to find details on, say, Chinese player Dong Jiong's sivler medal from Atlanta in 1996. New subheadings at the page tops also aid in navigation. Nice improvements. But oh, for an index...

The book even has results of discontinued events -- motorboating and tug of war are two, all you bar-betters -- and a brief history of every Summer Games. And a nice reference in the front matter is a compendium of busted drug users from each Olympics -- men, women and horses.

As usual, it's a keeper. If you can make space for it. Don't be looking for winter sports results here: In spite of the new, general name "Olympics," (as opposed to the former, "Complete Book of the Summer Olympics") those sports remain in a separate, winter edition.

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Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.