We’re free… no you’re not
Finland, now completely separated from Russia was not allowed to use its own flag. Ireland participated separately from Great Britain but also was not allowed to use their own flag.
Liberty and blocking for all!
In the 400m, American winner John Carpenter was disqualified for blocking a British athlete. This was legal in the US but the Olympics followed British rules. A re-match was ordered but the Americans decided not to run. 125 years after gaining independence from Britain, the Olympics evoked old rivalries.
More money, less medals…
American athlete Jim Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon. By being paid as a minor league baseball player he had broken the Olympic rules. The silver medallist, a fellow American, refused to accept the medals and they were restored to Thorpe’s children in 1983.
War what is it good for?
Not hosting OIympics
The Olympic Games were due to be held in Berlin, Germany. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War One put a stop to this and the Olympics were cancelled.
Lose the war, lose your Olympics
Budapest, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (a German ally) had been selected to host the Olympic Games. However as losers of ‘The Great War’ they (along with Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and Turkey) were not invited and the games were moved to Antwerp in Belgium.
Forget their Olympics, come to ours
The Olympics were awarded to Berlin before Adolf Hitler came to power, as a show of peace to a rebuilding Germany. However, with Hitler’s controversial racial policies many nations threatened to boycott the Olympics. The ‘Popular Front’ government of Spain organised their own ‘Peoples Games’. This fell apart when they weren’t as popular as they thought and the Spanish Civil War broke out.
Hitler’s ‘Aryan Race’ idea has flaws
The United States considered boycotting the Berlin games due to Hitler’s racial ideas. Instead, they attended the games and one of their most famous athletes, the African-American Jesse Owens, proved Hitler wrong by winning four gold medals. Running was one of the few sports that Germany didn’t find a way to cheat and win at these games. Hitler was still wiping the egg of his face when he decided to invade Poland.
We’d love to go for a run but we’re too busy bombing people
World leaders again showed a terrible sense of timing by selecting Tokyo, Japan to host the Olympics. Due to their involvement in the Second Sino (China)-Japanese War, they opted not to host the games with the honour being passed onto Helsinki, Finland. In the end World War Two started and the games were put on hold until London in 1948.
The ‘Appeasement Games’ …
unless we really dislike you
Having had their previous Olympics rudely interrupted by war, London was again selected as host. Amidst the background of a bombed and war-torn city it was decided that wartime enemies Germany and Japan would not be invited. The Soviet Union, upset at Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech and growing conflict with the United States, decided not to send any athletes.
The ‘Friendly Games’ … for most
The Olympic Games in Melbourne were a great event that put Australia on the map. However, seven nations boycotted the games for political reasons. Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon in response to the Suez Crisis where Egypt was invaded by Israel. The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary and China, who protested Taiwan competing independently.
Blood in the Water
At Melbourne, the political frustrations between the Soviet Union and Hungary boiled over in the men’s water polo. The game became increasingly violent and the Hungarian crowds came close to rioting in what became known as the ‘Blood in the Water’ match.
Emerging nations become banned nations
The Cold War continued to have a major impact on the Olympics. A total of 51 mostly socialist or communist nations participated in the ‘Games of the New Emerging Forces’. The IOC threatened to ban all of these nations, including the Soviet Union, from the Olympics. The GANEFO hosts Indonesia along with North Korea boycotted the Olympic Games held in Tokyo, Japan.
Civil Rights and South Africa
The growing civil rights movement spread to the Olympic Games as South Africa as banned for their unpopular and controversial Apartheid (racial segregation) policies. The decision, aimed at pressuring the South African government to change, was the first of many boycotts that eventually led to greater freedoms for coloured peoples.
Black Power to the People
Racial issues again dominated the Olympics as Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two black athletes from the United States performed the ‘Power to the People’ salute during the national anthem of the United States. A white Australian, silver medallist Peter Norman, also made the controversial salute. This brave salute led to Smith and Carlos being banned from the Olympic village but fuelled the campaign for race rights.
Massacre in Mexico
With the Olympic Games to be held in Mexico City, local students took up the opportunity to gain media attention for their protest against the authoritarian Mexican government. Sadly, the government reacted with violence culminating in the Tlatelolco Massacre ten days before the games began where more than 2000 protesters were shot by government forces.
Sports Greatest Cover-Up
The Soviet state of East Germany caught many by surprise with an unprecedented 25 medals in Mexico. The success of this small nation of 17 million people continued until 1988 when they won 17 medals in Seoul. Eventually the reasons for their success were discovered, the ‘State Plan 14.25’ of sponsored doping for athletes had given the East German’s a considerable advantage, cost many fair competitors (including Australians) medals and evoked suspicion throughout the world.
Black September and the Munich Massacre
At the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September with links to Yasser Arafat’s ‘Fatah’ organisation.
The United States don’t like silver medals either
The intense rivalry between superpowers the United States of America and the Soviet Union spilled onto the basketball court in Munich. In a close gold medal game a controversy over the final play of the game resulted in the USA refusing to accept their silver medals. This only added to the growing tension.
Africa stands its ground
In protest against the New Zealand rugby union team’s tour of South Africa, Tanzania led a boycott of twenty-two African nations after the IOC refused to ban New Zealand. This prevented a much anticipated meeting between Tanzanian Filbert Bavi and New Zealand’s John Walker, with Walker winning the gold medal in the 1500 metres.
The boycotts of Montreal continue
Hosts Canada initially refused to allow the Republic of China to complete, due to their refusal to recognise Taiwan as a nation. An unpopular compromise almost led to the US boycotting their neighbour’s games and eventually to China withdrawing anyway. Due to the various boycotts only 92 countries participated in Montreal.
Signs of trouble in Afghanistan
U.S President Jimmy Carter issued a boycott of the Moscow games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Following the lead of the US, a total of 62 eligible countries withdrew to support the US protest or because they were too poor to compete. The Americans created another event, the Liberty Bell Classic, with 29 boycotting countries participated in.
A brave and honest Pole
Pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz of Poland, a communist Soviet state, showed sportsmanship in an unusual way by showing an obscene ‘bras d’honneur’ (essentially ‘up-yours’) to cheating Soviet officials in Moscow who were opening stadium doors to provide him with wind assistance. This act of fairness caused an international scandal, almost lost him his gold medal and led to him defecting to West Germany in 1984.
Tick for tack in Los Angeles
Following the mass boycott of the previous Moscow games, the Soviet Union and fourteen of its allies boycotted the games in Los Angeles. This significantly weakened the competition as the Eastern Bloc nations organised their own ‘Friendship Games’. For different reasons Iran (protesting US interference in the Middle East) and Libya (not sure why, they just did) also boycotted the games.
The cheating games
The games held in Seoul are often remembered for all the wrong reasons. Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, at that time the fastest man in the world, was stripped of his 100m gold medal when he tested positive for steroids. And, in a case of home-town bias South Korean boxer Park Si-Hun won despite being pummelled by American Roy Jones Jr. Despite rumours of an embarrassed Park himself apologising, the result stands today in IOC records.
Better training or better drugs?
At the Barcelona games the Chinese showed a dramatic improvement to finish second behind the United States in the swimming by winning 4 gold and 5 silver medals. These improvements, along with further success in the next world championships, led to accusations by the US and other western nations of a systematic system of performance enhancing drugs.
Centennial Park Bombing in Atlanta
One of the least popular Olympics in history held in Atlanta, United States was tainted by a terrorist bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park by Eric Robert Rudolph. In his trial stated that he was angry at the American Government for supporting the Olympics, which he labelled as a form of ‘global socialism’ making reference to the John Lennon song ‘Imagine’. Two people died and 111 were injured at a concert prior to the games.
An interesting continuation of events
In the aftermath of the 9/11 bombings, the games in Athens, Greece took place under a cloud of terrorist threat and global distrust. Thankfully, it turned out to be a safe and successful games. However, it was also notable for the inglorious introduction of horse cheating, with the horse of Irish showjumper Cian O’Connor ‘Waterford Crystal’ testing positive to performance enhancing drugs. In an unusual protest Iranian judoist Arash Miresmaili was disqualified for being overweight. He had gone on an eating binge in protest against the IOC’s recognition of the state of Israel.