Books to Go With the Summer Olympics: Nonfiction



Forgive a proud alum a little brag! Mark Spitz may be the most famous but there are more I.U. grad-olympians that just the great post-boy swimmer.

Indiana University Olympians: From Leroy Samse to Lilly King by David Woods


I wish I had learned of this book earlier–I’d have read it for a review this week. This sort of book always grabs my attention. It’s nonfiction, but with real story to tell.

Dreamers and Schemers: How… the 1932 Olympics Transformed Barry Siegel


Discover the astonishing, inspirational, and largely unknown true story of the eighteen African American athletes who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, defying the racism of both Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South.

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice by Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thraser


From the first modern Olympic Games to the present, Below the Surface: The History of Competitive Swimming covers all the greatest moments, top rivalries, legendary swimmers, and biggest controversies in swimming history.

Below the Surface: The History of Competitive Swimming by John Lohn


The Fencers is the third volume in a trilogy of autobiographical Cold War Escape stories. It is both an immigrant’s narrative of seeking a better life and a brighter future and a sports memoir focusing on two Olympic fencers, one representing Canada, the other Romania. Most of all, it is the account of the author’s friendship with Paul Szabó, a Romanian-Hungarian epée fencer, Szabó’s love for a young woman he married and her tragic death.

A self-published book, but it still sounds very interesting.

The Fencers by Geza Tatrallyay


This is not a new book, but to leave out David Halberstam would be doing an injustice to the Olympics. The Amateurs tells of four men trying to compete in the 1984 Olympics in the single scull races in rowing. While it lacks the hard-luck story of Boys in the Boat, it is still a great work of sports literature. I somehow missed it in 2016, so I’m including it now.

The Amateurs by David Halberstam


A modern gangster cashes in on the London Olympics; business, politics and police corruption undermine the operation to stop him.

Legacy: Gangsters, Corruption and the London Olympics by Michael Gillard


The summer of 1984 was a watershed moment in the birth of modern sports when the nation watched Michael Jordan grow from college basketball player to professional athlete and star. That summer also saw ESPN’s rise to media dominance as the country’s premier sports network and the first modern, commercialized, profitable Olympics.

Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 by L. Jon Wertheim

But what about…? Boys in the Boat? Eric Liddell?

These were all out and in my posts for the 2016 Olympics–click on the book’s title below to go to my review of For The Glory or The Three-Year Swim Club. Boys in the Boat is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. The PBS documentary version. The Boys of ’36 (from the show American Experience) is excellent as well, as are both the book and movie of Unbroken.

Click here to see my favorite summer Olympics moments–this is pre-2016 Olmpics.

Books To Go With the Summer Olympics! Fiction


image credit

Olympic-ish Books


Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri … Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations.

Based on a True Story, but fictionalized


Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team by Elise Hooper

One of two novels here set at the 1936 Olympics, Fast Girls is a good read. Click the linked title (above) to go to my review. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.


“Based on the devastating true story of Somalian athlete Samia Omar, this award-winning Italian novel offers a timely and unforgettable insight into the refugee experience.”– Sam Baker, The Pool

Fictional Olympics Stories


Girl Runner: A Novel by Carrie Snyder

As a young runner, Aganetha Smart defied everyone’s expectations to win a gold medal for Canada in the 1928 Olympics. It was a revolutionary victory, because this was the first Games in which women could compete in track events—and they did so despite opposition. But now Aganetha Smart is in a nursing home, and nobody realizes that the frail centenarian was once a bold pioneer.



Bliss Remembered: A Novel by Frank Deford

Fun Fact: I once sat in front of Frank DeFord on a flight to D.C.. I recognized him by his voice as he dictated a future NPR commentary–which I later heard him deliver on the radio.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, American swimmer Sydney Stringfellow finds herself falling in love with Horst Gerhardt, a dashing young German. When the rising tide of global conflict tears them apart, Sydney returns to America, where she finds love again—in the arms of Jimmy Branch, an American man who takes her hand in marriage before shipping off to fight in World War II. And that is when Horst reappears in Sydney’s life, drawing her into a dilemma of passion, betrayal, and espionage.


The Games by James Patterson

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil knows how to throw a party. So it’s a natural choice to host the biggest spectacles in sports: the World Cup and the Olympics. To ensure that the games go off without a hitch, the organizers turn to Jack Morgan, head of the world’s greatest international security and consulting firm. But when events are this exclusive, someone’s bound to get left off the guest list.


Acquamarine by Carol Anshaw

Olympic swimmer Jesse Austin is seduced and consequently edged out for a gold medal by her Australian rival. From there, Anshaw intricately traces three possible paths for Jesse, spinning exhilarating variations on the themes of lost love and parallel lives unlived.

The Olympics open tomorrow night. Will you be watching? Can you add any other new books to this list?

Or, do you prefer your Olympics to happen in movies? Here’s my list of Olympics movies from 2016.

What Caught My Eye: Special Olympic Edition of American’s Best Moments at the Olympics

The IOC is not happy with bloggers using their hashtags or images so I’ve done my own!



There are so many great Olympic moments. I’m sorry if I didn’t mention your favorite, but feel free to tell me what it is in a comment.

American’s Finest Olympic Moments


Source unknown

Jesse Owens captures the Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics making a mockery of Hitler’s racial theories.



Source NBC

Muhammad Ali, who won Gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics but reportedly threw his medal in the Ohio River after a racist incident, lit the torch at the 1996 Atlanta games, shocking America at how frail he had become.


Source unknown

The Gold Medal-winning goal in 1980. The USA defeated the pros of the USSR.


Former Sudanese “Lost Boy” refugee Lopez Lomong as USA’s flag bearer in Bejing


Swimming legends Mark Spirtz (left) and Michael Phelps (right).


America’s brave sweetheart Kerri Strug who played with pain and help win the team Gold medal. She was carried to the podium by coach, Béla Károlyi.

Love the Olympics? Then you’ll enjoy these two recent books



My real-life friend Susan at Girls in White Dresses (we met thru blogging–how cool is that?) recently reviewed a super new book on Chariots of Fire’s own Eric Liddell.  My review of another recent Olympics-related book follows.

For the Glory, Eric Liddell’s Journey: Review


“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48

If ever a human came close, it was probably Eric Liddell. You may know of Liddell from “Chariots of Fire,” the film based (loosely, apparently, according to this book — I haven’t seen it) on his life. For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr is a new book detailing Eric’s life.

Liddell was born to Scottish parents in China, where his parents were missionaries. In 1924, at the age of 22, Eric was scheduled to run the 100-meter race in the Olympics in Paris. But he refused to run when he learned that the race would be held on a Sunday. The book went into a bit of history on Sunday competitions, and Liddell wasn’t the first to decline participation for this reason. Dating back to 1900, 3 Americans had refused participation in Sunday Olympic events. In 1908, American hurdler Forest Smithson competed (and won) on a Sunday, while holding a Bible in his hand in protest and testimony. I had to admire these athletes for standing up for their beliefs, which seem almost quaint in today’s world.

Liddell was scheduled to run the 400-meter race instead, and despite the fact that he was expected by no one to be competitive in the event, he won it.


Eric Liddell, For the Glory

Instead of resting on his laurels and raking in product endorsements, Liddell basically said goodbye to athletics the next year, moving to China to become a missionary as his parents had been. Asked once whether he regretted leaving athletic glory behind for the mission field, Liddell answered, “It’s natural for a chap to think over all that sometimes, but I’m glad I’m at the work I’m engaged in now. A fellow’s life counts for far more at this than the other.”

Click to read more

The subtitle of this book is The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory. That is what made me want to read this! (That and the staff picks at Elliott Bay Books never lead me astray). Kids training in a ditch for the Olympics? Yes…and no. Let me explain.A school teacher at a Hawaiian Japanese school saw the kids on the sugar plantations getting into trouble playing in the irrigation ditches. His solution? Teach them to swim. Then took it up a notch–teach them to be competitive swimmers. In 1937 the world was working toward both World War II and the 1940 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Well, we know how that worked out! But along the way a troop of Japanese American kids and a few native Hawaiian kids became top swimmers thanks to the utter devotion of coach Soichi Sakamoto. In the tradition of Stand and Deliver and other heroic teacher stories, he takes this ragtag group of ditch swimmers all the way to the Olympics….sort of…and not until after World War II.

At the end I came away admiring the determination of the coach (pitied his wife though!) and for the swimmers. I thought the parallels between the unprepared Olympic site in Antwerp in 1920 and the far-flung sites and austerity of London in ’48 were good parallels for Rio.  It would also be an excellent gift for any competitive swimmer or swimmer-graduate. It does, as promised, compare well to Boys in the Boat and Unbroken.

The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway


Fun for Little Olympians!



The Olympics officially open tonight in Rio! If your family is going to be enjoying the competition, it can be tough for the little guys to be patient until it is family tv time! Here are some resources to help pass the time with the birth-to-early elementary crowd.

And, no, I didn’t pick any books. Sorry, but I imagine every library in the country has done a themed display.

 To Eat


Olympic Torch Cupcakes to serve with the Opening Ceremony.  Megan’s Kitchen Blog has the instructions! Leave her a nice comment if you make these!





Cool Pool Jello

The most decorated Olympian EVER is the USA’s own Michael Phleps and he’s a swimmer. He also happens to be carrying the Stars and Stripes in the Opening Ceremony. Here’s a great, simple, jello pool with cookie swimmers!
Blue jello, red licorice and teddy grahams. [Original blog has been taken down].


Need to go all-out and have a kids Olympics Party? Here’s Living Well–a favorite blog of mine–on how to host an Olympics Party complete with cookie Olympic Medals, a paper Fire for the caldron lit by the torch and Olympic Rings Pizza!  Living Well’s Olympic Party Post


To Make

Little guys LOVE to make stuff! I guarantee NO GLITTER! I threw in an super easy nail art idea and some big guy crafts too!


To Color




There are zillions of coloring pages on the internet. Activity Village has a really great selection of Olympics and Olympics-related coloring pages for all ages.




Photo Booth Fun




The Burgh Baby has wickedly funny drawing suggestions to make your own little Olympians look great!  Love this idea! There are examples from other sports, too.





To Track the Medal Count

Click source link to print


Source      Left     Right

Not in the USA? The RIGHT link has a Canadian Page and a blank page as well.


To Watch

Yesterday’s post had family-friendly movies, but these shows are just for the little ones in the family! Perfect for quiet time when or when Mom or Dad must make dinner.




When you are two or three Sports Day looks a lot like the Olympics, right? Season 7, episode 8 is Peppa’s Sports Day.

Watch on Amazon Instant Video




Yo Gabba Gabba, Season 4 has an Olympics episode!

Watch on Amazon Instant Video [#2]






When Mom needs a break, pop in Scooby’s Laff-a-lympics! Lame? You bet! Culturally uplifting? Sure! Scooby’s a classic!

Watch on Amazon Instant Video







Postcards from Buster is for elementary age kids. Episodes 13 and 18 look at serious athletic training like Olympians do!

Watch on Amazon Instant Video





Episode 6 of Kids Annotated History With Pipo talks about the creation of the ancient Olympics. Watch on Amazon Instant Video or Hulu



Olympics Movies to Binge-Watch

NOTE: Since the IOC has made a big stink about their images, hashtags and other media, I’m using my own fabulous artwork this week.




I used to really look forward to the Olympics–I especially loved the “Up close and Personal” segments where we “met” various athletes. Now you have to be under a rock to avoid spoilers so the whole thing isn’t that fun anymore. Plus, the “big” sports are all played by zillionaire pros–no fun, either. I loved it when our college boys took on the pros the Soviet Union called “amateurs” in the ’70s and ’80s. Watching the college boys win the hockey gold in 1980 will always be a Great American Moment. But today that’s mostly gone. Pros play the big-draw sports in leagues all over the world now. So, today I thought I’d give you some “Up Close and Personal” movies to binge watch.

But first, Cary Grant.

Because….well…Cary Grant!! My favorite Olympics movie is….

Walk, Don’t Run …which was Grant’s last film.


Watch on Amazon Instant


Fun Fact: I once signed up to take a race walking class. Sadly, only one other person signed up so it was canceled. This was in the 1980s when the PanAmerican Games were in Indianapolis on the IUPUI campus where I was working at the time. Too bad. I could a been a contender! One foot must be on the ground at all times otherwise you are running and out of the race.

Here’s the 2016 Race Walking schedule according to Google’s Olympics page. Yes, the USA has a race walking team!

Men’s 20K final   August 12, 1:30 pm

Women’s 20K final  August 19, 1:30 pm

Men’s 50K final  August 18, 7:00 am

Photo is Cary Grant in Walk, Don’t Run (Columbia). This movie is family-friendly in my opinion!

Second, The Fabulous One

You just knew this one would show up, right? Snooty upperclass toffs are kind of my thing in movies and books, so of course Chariots of Fire has to be here! The movie that made Henley shirts a thing, that made missionaries cool and that gave us all that Vangelis music! What’s not to love?


Watch on Amazon Instant

At the Paris Summer Games of 1924, Scotland’s nice Presbyterian missionary kid Eric Liddell won’t bow to his stuck-up future King’s request that he set aside God’s command to keep the Sabbath Holy. Meanwhile, Harold Abrams tries to show the British Aristocracy that he is as acceptable as Ernest Cassel and the Rothschild family. John Gielgud oozes anti-semitism as freely as Liddell oozes earnest piety.

And, Princess Diana’s last lover, Dodi Fayed, gets a credit as a Executive Producer! How Hooray Henry can you get? The last lover of the Number One Sloane Ranger, may the press finally let them both rest in peace!

Breaking Away star, Dennis Christopher, plays American runner Charlie Paddock. According to the Internet Movie Data Base, both Kenneth Brannagh and Stephen Fry appear as college students.

This movie is family-friendly to me.

Third, The Young Man From Oregon


Watch on Amazon Instant

University of Oregon’s great middle-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, “Pre” as he was know,  is a legend both for dying tragically and young and for his running. He was one of the big stories at the 1972 Munich Games. Today there is a the Prefontaine Classic–a national track meet held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field annually in his honor. This movie tells his story.

This movie is not for young children and teens should watch with parents.

Fourth, the Tragedy


Watch on Amazon Instant

I was 10 when the Games were held in Munich. Terrorism, so prevalent today, had been raising its ugly head then too. Hijacking planes was starting. The Middle East was unsettled then as it is today. Few of us who watched the 1972 Games will ever forget the horrific hostage taking and death of 11 Israeli athletes–mostly wrestlers or wrestling coaches. One, David Berger (a weightlifter) was an American who had emigrated to Israel under the right of return. This movie, feature James Bond (Daniel Craig) deals with the Israeli response to the killings. Israeli Prime Minister,Golda Meir,  was not a woman to trifle with as the film shows.

This movie is not for young children and teens should watch with parents.

Family-friendly Olympics Movies



This is a fun, family-friendly made-for-tv mini-series about the first modern Olympics. I’ve enjoyed it a few times over the years. M*A*S*H star David Ogden Stires (Major Charles Emerson Winchester) the fabulous Wilfred Hyde-White, Angela Lansbury and a very young David Caruso are among the cast.

Buy it on Amazon Sorry, but it isn’t on Amazon Instant.





Re-live one of America’s greatest Olympic Moments–the 1980 Gold Medal in Hockey. Underdog All American College Boys beat the so-called amateurs of the Soviet Union. Popcorn is required. Hockey jerseys are optional, but fun.

Watch on Amazon Instant.







I’ll watch anything with Christopher Plummer! I liked this movie over-all. It’s an update of National Velvet with Velvet Brown’s niece riding in the Olympics. Didn’t they have to shoot a horse on the plane though? Maybe there was a miracle? Too long since I’ve seen it. In spite of this it is a good family film. Cuddle your stuffed horses, get out the American Girl Dressage Arena,  invite your Breyer horses or just make popcorn. It’s worth it [for Christopher Plummer alone, never mind the horses].

Watch on Amazon Instant



Do you have any other Olympics movies to share? Leave me a comment. I love to hear what readers think and enjoy having a post become a conversation on the topic.


Royal Olympians

Note: The Official Olympic Logo is not to be used by bloggers, even those earning no money like me. So, I’m not using it. You’d think they’d WANT folks talking about it!


Source: Hopewell

In Rio right now athletes, their friends and families, celebrities and royalty are assembling for the the 2016 Summer Olympic Games which open Friday. To put us all in the mood for the Games, I’m profiling the various royals who have competed in the Summer and Winter Olympics Games.


British Royal Family

Sources: Left–AP, Right

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips at 1976 Olympics (left)

Princess Anne awarding daughter Zara a Gold Medal for Equestrian, London, 2012

The British Royal Family has the makings of an Olympic dynasty! The Queen’s only daughter, Anne, the Princess Royal, her ex-husband, Mark Phillips and their daughter, Zara Phillips Tindall have all competed in Equestrian at the Games. Who knows? Maybe Zara’s little girl, Mia, could compete too? Of course her Dad, Mike Tindall, is a rugby legend–maybe she’ll compete at the games in Rugby 7s–a new sport at the Rio games this year. Here’s how the family has done in Olympic competition.

Summer Olympics

Mark Phillips

1968 Olympics in Mexico City: Reserve Rider, did not compete but received Gold medal as a team member.

1972 Olympics in Munich: Team Member,  Gold medal in mixed 3-Day Eventing.

1976 Olympics, Montreal: Reserve Rider.

1980 Olympics, Moscow–boycotted by Britain

1988 Olympics, Seoul: Team Member, Silver medal in mixed 3-Day Eventing.

Princess Anne

1976 Olympics, Montreal. Team Member. [No Medal.]

Zara Phillips [Tindall]

2012 Olympics, London: Team Member, Silver in mixed 3-Day Eventing.

Winter Olympics


The Queen’s first cousin (also a cousin, by birth, of Prince Philip as well) Prince Michael of Kent was a “non-traveling, reserve member” of the British Bobsleigh Team for the 1972 Sapporro, Japan, Winter Games.

Photo source





Royal Family of Monaco

Monaco could also have a royal Olympic dynasty on its hands. Both Prince Albert II and his consort, Princess Charlene, are both Olympians. Who knows what the future may hold for the couples adorable twins, Jacques and Gabrielle?

Winter Olympics



Prince Albert II of tiny Monaco competed for his country in five consecutive Winter Olympics in the 2 and 4 man bobsleigh. He did not win any medals.

Photo source: Getty [embeddable]


Summer Olympics



As Charlene Wittstock, as she was then, competed in swimming for South Africa at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She did not win any medals.

Photo source: Getty [embeddable]


Greek and Spanish Royal Families

King Olympics


Constantine receives his Olympic Gold Medal

Summer Olympics

It’s not secret that sailing is an incredibly expensive sport just like equestrian. For that reason it should be no surprise that many royals have competed in Olympic Sailing. Former King Juan Carlos of Spain (1972), his wife Queen Sofia (1960, as a Princess of Greece) was a reserve member of the Greek sailing team, their son, Filipe VI, (1992) and daughter daughter Princess Cristina (1988) ALL competed in sailing (years are in parentheses). None received medals.  Queen Sofia’s brother, King Constantine II of Greece,  competed on the 1960 Greek team and won the nation’s first Olympic Gold medal in decades.

Infanta Cristina’s husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, competed at three Olympics in Team Handball winning  2 Bronze team medals.

Norwegian and Danish Royal Families

Summer Olympics

Source: Left Unknown Right Getty

Olav V in 1928 (2nd from left) and his son, Prince Harold at the 1964 Games

Father and son, Olav V (a grandson of King Edward VII of England) and his son, Harold V, both competed in Sailing. Olav won a Gold medal at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Harold was not so lucky. He did not win any medals at the 1964 Tokyo Games.


Other Royal Families

There is an excellent list here on all the other minor European Royals and Middle Eastern Royals who have competed in both the Winter and Summer Games.


Do you enjoy Royal spotting at the Olympics? I sure do! I enjoyed all the royal pictures from the last Olympics–the one where James Bond sent the Queen on a Mission to open the Games. Here’s that great Olympic moment again, just for fun!


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