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Monday 14 June 2021

Letter from From Campo Parioli to Olympic Village ... and back!

From Campo Parioli to Olympic Village ... and back!

Author of the content

Once upon a time there was a large green lawn called Campo Parioli between the hills of Parioli and Villa Glori and the Tiber. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, the camp was occupied by displaced persons, those who had lost their homes in the war, sometimes their jobs and even their families. The shacks grew: little or nothing remained of the green field in those 50's while yellow grass grew between waste paper and food remains to the delight of stray dogs and cats. Nobody went down the Parioli hill to cross that field and reach the shore of the sacred river. The situation exuded misery and misfortunes as degradation grew.

Campo Parioli agglomeration
Campo Parioli agglomeration. Photo credit: Rerum Romanarum

The Olympics in Rome and the construction of the Olympic Village

However, it happens that in those 50s the XVII Olympics were assigned, after London as the winner, to Rome which was defeated. Those were the years of the Marshall Plan and of the reconstruction that swept away ruins and miseries to propose the new face of the city that, for less than 1 million inhabitants, was about to exceed 3 million in the following years. The Olympics posed two fundamental problems to the city, that of the sports facilities and the connecting roads and that of the houses where the thousands of athletes and also the delegations, the press, the cameramen and spectators from all over the world lodge.

For the athletes, which would have been more than 5000, coming from 80 nations of the five continents, the construction of a special village capable of welcoming them all was decided and it was chosen to build it at the Parioli field. The displaced people were cleared by transferring them to municipal housing, the barracks were demolished and construction was started. Great architects of the time were involved in the work: Libera, Cafiero, Luccichenti, Monaco, Moretti. Bernarducci designed the church of San Valentino, truly futuristic for those years. Nervi designed the sports hall.

Great athletes stayed in this village in that late Olympic summer such as the Russian jumper Brumel, the American sprinter Wilma Rudolf, the great boxers Cassius Clay and Nino Benvenuti, the Turin sprinter Livio Berruti who made the hearts of his fellow citizens vibrate with joy, still shaken by the tragedy of Superga and the great Ethiopian Abebe Bikila who won the marathon running barefoot through the streets of Rome as he had always done on the highlands of his country.

Olympic Village: from glory to decay

The work was excellent with elegant and capacious buildings, green lawns, shady trees, well connected to the city and to the competition fields. Funding had come from the Municipality of Rome and from CONI, but above all from INCIS (National Institute for State Employee Houses) to which the village was delivered at the end of the Olympics. Since then a slow degradation began, not structural, but of maintenance, gardening and attendance. For decades the good people who lived in the houses, at night in the dimly lit avenues, replaced prostitutes of all colors, creating a privileged place for prostitution.

After dark decades there was an interesting recovery with the construction of the Auditorium - Parco della Musica, but it was short glory. The prostitutes declined, but remained. The District did not have adequate funding to take care of the greenery, heaps of garbage, waste, empty bottles, cans grew on the lawns, also as a consequence of the increased attendance for events, even extra musical, that the Auditorium produced and produced continuously.

Today the grass overflows from the meadows on the edge of the avenues, the shrubs widen occupying the street and the parking lots for cars. Tall trees, like grass, turn yellow in the sun without water supply and without pruning. The asphalt gradually decomposes, breaking up the road surface and creating incurable holes.

Olympic Village
Olympic village increasingly in degradation

The illegal squads have also reappeared, other than the post-war IDPs. This time it is the gypsies who permanently park with their campers in the free parking spaces where their children play and their women ask the concert goers for alms in the evening. It is not known what men do!

In short, without district and municipal management, without gardeners, cleaners, city police, even the police seem to have abandoned the game and the direction of travel could be that of the return to the times of Campo Parioli.

Sunday June 30 2019






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