The Italian Almanac

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Dorando Pietri

Italian News - November 10

Italy is to honour Dorando Pietri, the runner who became a symbol of athletic suffering after a famous incident in the men's marathon at the London Olympics in 1908.

Pietri, an unknown pastry cook from this northern Italian city, was the first runner to enter the stadium, but collapsed several times and ran the wrong way. He struggled on and not far from the finish line two of the officials took him by the arms and helped him end the gruelling race.

As a consequence, Pietri was disqualified. The medal went to American Johnny Hayes who was second over the line, but the glory went to Pietri. Since he himself had not been responsible for his disqualification, Queen Alexandra the next day awarded him a gold cup in recognition of his achievement.

Photos and paintings of Pietri's heroic efforts travelled the world. Now his home town near Modena has decided to set up a statue in his honour. The city council has opened a competition for the monument and whittled down the sculptors to a short list of 29.

The statue is expected to be unveiled early in 2008, the anniversary of the famed incident.