16 October 2019

16 October

Dorando Pietri - marathon runner


Athlete who made his fortune from famous disqualification

The athlete Dorando Pietri, who found fame and fortune after being disqualified in the 1908 Olympic marathon, was born on this day in 1885 in Mandrio, a hamlet near Carpi, in Emilia-Romagna.  In an extraordinary finish to the 1908 race in London, staged on an exceptionally warm July day, Pietri entered the White City Stadium in first place, urged on by a crowd of more than 75,000 who were there to witness the finish, only for his legs to buckle beneath him.  He was helped to his feet by two officials only to fall down four more times before he crossed the finish line.  Each time, officials hauled him to his feet and walked alongside him, urging him on and ready to catch him if he fell.  The final 350 yards (320m) of the event accounted for 10 minutes of the two hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds recorded as his official time.  Eventually, a second athlete entered the stadium, the American Johnny Hayes, but Pietri had staggered over the line before he could complete the final lap.  The American team was already unpopular with the British crowd, partly because of a row about a flag at the opening ceremony. They lost even more support after they lodged an objection to the result.   Read more…


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Election of Pope John Paul II


How Karol Wojtyla became first non-Italian pope for 455 years

Pope John Paul II, who was to have a political and social influence unmatched by any pontiff since the Middle Ages, was elected to be the new leader of the Catholic Church on this day in 1978.  The result of the second Papal conclave in what became known as the Year of the Three Popes was announced after eight ballots. The new pontiff succeeded Pope John Paul I, who had died on September 28 after only 33 days in office, who had himself followed Pope Paul VI, who had passed away in August after reigning for 15 years.  The new man chosen was 58-year-old Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Krak√≥w, the first non-Italian to hold office for 455 years since the Dutch Pope Adam VI, who served from 1522-23.  Wojtyla's stand against Poland's Communist regime had brought him respect but he was not seen as a Vatican favourite and his elevation to the highest office stunned the Catholic world.  Yet he would go on to become one of the most familiar faces in the world, remaining in post for almost 27 years, which made him the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX. Read more…

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Dino Buzzati - author


Novelist likened to Camus whose short stories remain popular

The multi-talented author Dino Buzzati, whose output included five novels, several theatre and radio plays, a children’s novel, five opera libretti, some poetry, a comic book in which he also drew the illustrations, and several books of short stories, was born on this day in 1906 in Belluno.  Buzzati’s most famous novel, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940), titled The Tartar Steppe in the English translation, saw Buzzati compared to Albert Camus and Franz Kafka as a work of existentialist style, but it is for his short stories that he still wins acclaim.  A new collection entitled Catastrophe and Other Stories, which showcases Buzzati’s talent for weaving nightmarish fantasy into ordinary situations, was published earlier this year.  Buzzati, who worked as a journalist for the whole of his adult life and also painted prolifically, was the second of four children born to Giulio Cesare Buzzati, a distinguished professor of international law, and Alba Mantovani, a veterinarian born in Venice.  The family’s main home was in Milan but they had a summer villa in San Pellegrino, a village just outside Belluno in the foothills of the Dolomites, which was where Dino was born.  Read more…


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