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IN Sports ON 04 Oct, 2016
The tradition of the Olympic Games goes back to the 8th century BC. The origins of the games are deeply rooted in the Greek Mythology. They were basically held in honor of the sky and thunder god Zeus. Back then the games were held in Olympia, Greece. The modern chapter of the Olympic Games dates back to 1894. It is attributed to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the man who is hailed as the brain behind the International Olympic Committee aka IOC. The IOC is the governing body of the Olympic Movement and its structure and authority are defined by the Olympic Charter. As oppose to its ancient installment, the modern Olympic Games are a global event featuring thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a plethora of competitions. The IOC organizes the Summer and Winter Olympics alternatively such that each happens only once every four years. Usually, the Summer Olympic Games are a much bigger event vis-à-vis the Winter Olympic Games. While 204 countries participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics, only 88 countries participated in 2014 Winter Olympics. The Summer Olympics are held every leap year i.e. 2000, 2004 and so on, and the Winter Olympics are held 2 years after the leap year i.e. 2002, 2006 and so on. The underlying idea is to have an Olympic event every two years.
If we try and trace the history of the modern Olympic Games, we would come across several cases of illegal drug use, scandals as well as controversies. There have also been instances of countries boycotting the games on various accounts. There have been major controversies surrounding issues of racial discrimination, political interference, and corruption on the part of players as well as referees. Speaking of controversies, successor states of the Central Powers which lost the First World War viz. Germany, Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria and Austria were not invited to the Olympic Games of 1920, held in Antwerp. Similarly, the two major Axis Powers of WW-II i.e. Germany and Japan were suspended from the 1948 Summer Olympics. Also, the Soviet Union, although it was invited, decided not to send its athletes to the games. Then there were the Munich Summer Olympic Games of 1972 which were plagued by the kidnapping (and eventual killings) of eleven members of the Israel's Olympics team by Black September, the Palestinian terrorist outfit. In other words, the history of controversies and scandals when it comes to the Olympic Games is a long one. So, today we will try to put the spotlight on some of the major scandals associated with the multi-sport event.
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At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson shocked the world by one-upping his greatest competitor, the legendary American sprinter Carl Lewis, as he set a new world record for the 100-meter dash (9.79 seconds). But a few days later he tested positive for some banned substance. He was subsequently stripped of his gold medal that went to Lewis as a result. The episode is often seen as the first chapter in the ongoing worldwide fight against doping in sport.
Once credited with winning the Tour de France a record 7 times, the American cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of the seven titles that he won from 1999 to 2005 after testaments of his fellow cyclists confirmed his involvement in the doping scandal that had engulfed the world of cycling for years. But the humiliation didn't end here for Armstrong as in the year 2013 the IOC too decided to take away the bronze medal he had won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics for the men's road time trial. Soon, Armstrong decided to make an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show to make a public admission of his guilt.
It is well documented that the Olympic gymnasts can appear to be much younger than they actually are, perhaps because of their tiny builds. At the 2002 Sydney Olympics, the Chinese women's gymnastics team was stripped of the bronze medal on discovering that one of the team members, Dong Fangxiao, was underage. An investigation revealed that she was only 14 while the minimum age to compete at the games is 16.
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Canadian skaters Jaime Sale and David Pelletier attracted major controversy during the figure skating competition when they finished second to their Russian competitors, Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya despite being the favorites. It was later confessed by a French judge that she awarded higher points to the Russian skaters in exchange for a higher score for France's ice dancing team. Not only were Salé and Pelletier later awarded gold medals but the abysmal incident also led to the revamp of the judging system used for Olympic figure skating.
At the 2012 London Olympics, four teams in Badminton women's doubles, one each from China and Indonesia and two from South Korea, were disqualified for intentionally losing their matches. Apparently, the aforementioned eight players purposefully lost their matches as they thought that a loss would guarantee a match against a weaker team in the next round.
The 1936 Summer Olympics were hosted by the Nazis under the watch of Adolf Hitler himself. The event proved to be a highlight reel of controversies, big and small. The event is best remembered for Hitler's decision to not to shake hands with the American athlete of African origin, Jesse Owens, who finished with as many as four gold medals. The sporting carnival was skipped by two American sprinters, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, as they were the only two Jew athletes on the American team. In another major controversy, Austria went through to the football semi-finals in controversial circumstances despite being beaten by Peru in the quarter-finals. Olympic delegations of Peru and Colombia left Germany as a sign of protest.
At the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics, the American athlete Jim Thorpe was stripped of the gold medals he won in the decathlon and pentathlon events after it was learnt that three years earlier he had been a minor league baseball player. Hugo Wieslander, the decathlon silver medalist, refused to accept the gold medals subsequently offered to him in solidarity. In 1983, thirty years after Thorpe's death, the gold medals were restored to his children.
At the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea, the five judges gave the 3-2 split decision in favor of the South Korean boxer Park Si-Hun despite the fact that American boxer Roy Jones had beaten him to a pulp, landing as many as 86 devastating punches. The situation got so embarrassing for the de facto winner that he personally apologized to Jones, which had to have sucked. One of the judges later admitted the three judges who screwed Jones had actually partied with South Korean officials.
During the 1972 summer Olympics at Munich, eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team including athletes, coaches and judges were taken hostage and eventually killed, along with a German police officer, by the terrorist group Black September which reportedly had ties with Yasser Arafat. The perpetrators demanded the release of the Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel at the time. Five Black September members were killed by the German police during a failed rescue attempt three were captured alive but released next month. The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad retaliated by tracking down and killing all those who were suspected of involvement in the Munich Massacre.