The Olympic Games
With the Tokyo Games postponed to 2021, I decided to look up past Olympics Games information. The games have been postponed five other times, which were due to the World Wars in 1916, 1940 twice, and 1944 twice. The country that hosted the most games is the United States and the continent that hosted the most games is Europe.
Ten cities have held the Olympics more than once: Athens (2), St. Moritz (2), Lake Placid (2), Innsbruck (2), Lillehammer (2), Tokyo (will be 2 in 2020/2021), Beijing (will be 2 in 2022), Cortina d’Ampezzo (will be 2 in 2026), London (3), Paris (will be 3 in 2024), Los Angeles (will be 3 in 2028), Beijing will be the first city to hold summer and winter games.
The countries winning the most medals as a host city are the following: Canada, France, Great Britain, Norway, Germany, Russian, Soviet Union, China, and the United States. Every country except the U.S. has accomplished this once. The United States has done it five times.
It used to be that only amateurs could compete in the games and when professionals were able to compete, it turned some viewers off. I personally will take it either way, but the IOC in the past penalized amateur athletes for not abiding by their rules. Jim Thorpe was stripped of his medals for not adhering to the amateur code in 1912 although the IOC restored them in 1983, long after he died.
What are some Olympic Games highlights, controversies, and embarrassing moments? This will not include every sport because there isn’t enough time. I’m going to break it into two parts: 1896 to 1968 and 1972 to 2018. If you find I’m missing something and you will, I encourage you to make your own list and post it. Besides, I’m curious what everyone else might pick.
Prior to 1900, female athletes weren’t allowed to compete. It was in Paris that they could compete in tennis and golf.
The world learned about two American track & field athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, when they silently protested by raising their fists during the 1968 Mexico City Games.
The 1936 Berlin Games included a South African boxer named Thomas Hamilton-Brown. After his disappointing fight, he took to food, gained weight, and disqualified.
In the 1968 Grenoble Games, three women luge athletes were disqualified for illegally heating their runners.
Denver, Colorado residents didn’t want the 1976 Winter Olympics in their city which lead to Innsbruck, Austria being the host city.
The American who won the gold by actually running the full marathon was Tom Hicks. His teammate, Frederick Lorz, decided it was better to hitch a car ride for 11 miles during the St. Louis Games of 1904.
Jesse Owens from the United States wins four gold medals in Track & Field during the 1936 Berlin Games much everyone’s surprise.
The Paralympic Games started in London in 1948 with its predecessor, the International Wheelchair Games.
During the 1904 St. Louis, Missouri Games, an American gymnast was able to win three gold, two silver, and one bronze medal with a wooden leg. His name was George Eyser.
The elusive perfect 10 in gymnastics. Up until the 1976 Montreal Games, no gymnast had ever received one. Enter Nadia Comaneci, a Romanian gymnast, who won three gold, one silver, and one bronze medal.
When you don’t have foot problems, you don’t need to wear shoes to run a marathon. In 1960 Rome Games, Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia, ran barefoot and won gold.
Seven countries boycotted the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon did not participate because of the Suez Crisis when Egypt was invaded. The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland did not participate because the Soviet Union had invaded Hungary. China did not participate because of Taiwan.
The 2008 Beijing Games did not disappoint in their opening ceremony although people from all over the world boycotted watching it due to various reasons.
You train hard for years but not everything goes as planned. Derek Redmond realized that when he had to stop running due to a hamstring tear and with the help of his father crossed the finish line. He was disqualified but he’s still remembered from the 1992 Barcelona Games as an athlete who never gave up.
Gymnasts are known for their original moves and if you are the first one to do it, it is named after you. In the 1972 Munich Games, Olga Korbut from the Soviet Union won three gold medals and wowed everyone with her “Korbut flip” on the uneven bars. It has since been banned from competition.
Chris Boardman, a British cyclist, won the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games by catching up to the leader, Jens Lehmann from Germany.
As part of the Magnificent Seven, it was all up to Kerri Strug from the United States in the 1996 Atlanta Games. It was between the U.S. and Russia on who would win the gold team medal. Her first vault resulted in injury due to a fall and she had to do another one at the insistence of her coach, Bela Károlyi. The Americans got the team gold, but Strug missed out on the individual competition. In a weird reversal, Dominque Moceanu who fell on both vaults replaced Strug in the individual competition.
When Allan Wells was pressured to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games, he did not. He went with no flag bearer for Britain and the generic Olympic anthem played when he won gold in the 100-meter race.
Mark Spitz, an American swimmer, wins seven gold medals in the 1972 Munich Games. Back in the day, swimmers wore no caps or goggles, but Speedos were still a staple of this sport.
Wilma Rudolph, an American sprinter, won three gold medals at the 1960 Rome Games. She was the first American woman to win three golds in an Olympic Games.
There’s always room for mishaps especially when you include animals in an opening ceremony. The 1988 Seoul Games realized it probably wasn’t the best idea to include doves. They incinerated when the cauldron was lit although a few were smart enough to fly away.
Sometimes interruptions happen by an Irish priest named Neil Horan. He made sure to make himself visible during the 2004 Athens Games marathon race by delaying Brazilian runner, Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima marathon run. He lost precious seconds and came in third.
The Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan fiasco and who would be the winner in the 1994 Lillehammer Games. When the short and long program ended, Nancy won the silver medal while Tonya came in 8th place.
The 2014 Sochi Games was supposed to have five rings, but due to technical issues we got four rings and one small flower.
The Worst for Last
There are a few situations I saw to be the worst possible situations any athlete could be in and these are the ones I chose.
Zola Budd from South African who ran barefoot in the 1984 Los Angeles Games caused Mary Decker from the United State to fall, well partly her fault. Zola would come in 7th place in the 3000 meter while Mary never finished. Mary did compete in the 1988 and 1996 Games.
Ángel Matos from Cuba was not happy during the 2008 Beijing Games. When losing to Arman Chilmanov from Kazakhstan due to violating time limits, he kicked the Swedish referee, Chakir Chelbat, in the face. The Taekwondo fighter was banned for life.
Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter, had his world record time of 9.79 seconds gold medal taken away from him in the 1988 Seoul Games. He admitted to taking steroids when it was found in his body.
Dong Fangxiao, a Chinese gymnast, was stripped of her bronze medal in 2010 because of her age during the 2000 Sydney Games. She was only 14 and this gave the U.S. women’s team bronze when her scores were retracted from the team competition.
There should only be one gold medal when it comes to figure skating, but in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games there were two because of unfair judging. The Canadian skating pair of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier tied with the Russian skating pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger, all United States swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. They made false reports of being robbed and were punished and suspended for their conduct.
Top 25 in the Medal Count
Let’s end on a positive note. Okay, sort of positive note. The probability of winning a gold medal is in the million range. The issue with most of us is getting to the Olympics in the first place. Yet, something went right for these athletes as they won 10 or more Olympic medals.
The athlete with the most Olympic medals is Michael Phelps, the swimmer, from the United States. He competed in three games, 2008, 2012, and 2016. He won 23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze with 28 total medals.
Second ranking goes to Larisa Latnina from the Soviet Union. As a gymnast, she competed in three games, 1956, 1960, and 1964. She won 9 gold, 5 silver, and 4 bronze with 18 total medals.
Third ranking goes to Nikolai Andrianov from the Soviet Union. As a gymnast, he competed in three games, 1972, 1976, and 1980. He won 7 gold, 5 silver, and 3 bronze with 15 total medals.
Fourth ranking goes to Ole Einar Bjørndalen from Norway. As a biathlete, he competed in six games, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. He won 8 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze with 13 total medals.
Fifth ranking goes to Boris Shakhlin from the Soviet Union. As a gymnast, he competed in three games, 1956, 1960, and 1964. He won 7 gold, 4 silver, and 2 bronze with 13 total medals.
Sixth ranking goes to Edoardo Mangiarotti from Italy. As a fencer, he competed in five games, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960. He won 6 gold, 5 silver, and 2 bronze with 13 total medals.
Seventh ranking goes to Takashi Ono from Japan. As a gymnast, he competed in four games, 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1964. He won 5 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze with 13 total medals.
Eighth ranking goes to Paavo Nurmi from Finland. As a runner, he competed in three games, 1920, 1924, and 1928. He won 9 gold and 3 silver with 12 total medals.
Ninth ranking goes to Birgit Schmidt-Fischer from East Germany/Germany. As a canoer, she competed in six games, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. She won 8 gold and 4 silver with 12 total medals.
Tenth ranking goes to Bjørn Dæhlie from Norway. As a runner, he competed in four games, 1988, 1992, 1994, and 1998. He won 8 gold and 4 silver with 12 total medals.
Eleventh ranking goes to Jenny Thompson from the United States. As a swimmer, she competed in four games, 1992, 1994, 2000, and 2004. She won 8 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze with 12 total medals.
Twelfth ranking goes to Sawao Kato from Japan. As a gymnast, he competed in three games, 1968, 1972, and 1976. He won 8 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze and 12 total medals.
Thirteen ranking goes to Ryan Lochte from the United States. As a swimmer, he competed in four games, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. He won 6 gold, 3 silver, and 3 bronze with 12 total medals.
Fourteenth ranking goes to Dara Torres from the United States. As a swimmer, she competed in six games, 1984, 1988, 1992, 200, and 2008. She won 4 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze with 12 total medals.
Fifteenth ranking goes to Alexi Nemov from the Soviet Union. As a gymnast, he competed in two games, 1996 and 2000. He won 4 gold, 2 silver, and 6 bronze with 12 total medals.
Sixteenth ranking goes to Mark Spitz from the United States. As a swimmer, he competed in two games, 1968 and 1972. He won 9 gold, 1 silver, and 1bronze with 11 total medals.
Seventeenth ranking goes to Matt Biondi from the United States. As a swimmer, he competed three games, 194, 1988, and 1992. He won 8 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze with 11 total medals.
Nineteenth ranking goes to Věra Čáslavská from Czechoslovakia. As a gymnast, she competed in three games, 1960, 1964, and 1968. She won 7 gold and 4 silver with 11 total medals.
Twentieth ranking goes to Viktor Chukarin from the Soviet Union. As a gymnast, he competed in two games, 1952 and 1956. He won 7 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze and 11 total medals.
Twenty-first ranking goes to Natalie Coughlin from the United States. As a swimmer, she competed in two games, 2004 and 2008. She won 3 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze with 11 total medals.
Twenty-second ranking goes to Ray Ewry is an American track & field athlete beginning in 1900 and ending in 1906. He competed in four Olympics including Intercalated Games and won 10 gold medals.
Twenty-third ranking goes to Carl Lewis is an American track & field athlete beginning in 1984 and ending in 1996. He competed in four Olympics and won 9 gold and 1 silver medals.
Twenty-fourth ranking goes to Aladár Gerevich is a Hungarian fencer beginning in 1932 and ending in 1960. He competed in seven Olympics and won 7 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals.
Twenty-fifth ranking goes to Marit Bjørgen is a Norwegian cross-country skier beginning in 2002 and ending in 2014. He competed in four Olympics and won 6 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medals.