Olympics top 10: Strange facts
Thu, 02 Aug 2012 11:38a.m.
By Dan Satherley
People did things strange in the old days. Imagine an Olympics with only one event, a nude, oiled-up running race – it makes the London opening ceremony (Iron-smelting! Voldemort fighting Mary Poppins! Left-wing healthcare propaganda!) seem positively straight-ahead.
Here are some of the stranger things you may, or may not know about the Olympic Games.
10. Daley Thompson is awesome
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Daley Thompson broke the world record for the decathlon. But what he's best remembered for is virtually everything else he ever did.
For example, he turned up to the media conference afterwards with a shirt that read "Is the world's 2nd greatest athlete gay?"
He had a game named after him, Daley Thompson's Decathlon, released on the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Magazine Sinclair User gave it 8/10, meaning if it had a Metacritic score, it would rank higher than the official London 2012 Olympics game for the Xbox 360.
Thompson once said he was going to "give Princess Anne a baby", and told a reporter that a woman "only has to sit on a bed I've slept in to get pregnant".
When on the podium wearing his gold medal in 1984, he whistled along to 'God Save the Queen'. The boring one, not the one by the Sex Pistols.
9. Arash Miresmaili eats his way to stardom
Iran and Israel, at a government level, don't get on. As individuals, who knows, but there was no doubting what Iranian judoka Arash Miresmaeili thought of his Israeli opponent at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Favourite for the gold medal, in the first round Miresmaeili was inexplicably found to be too heavy to fight Israel's Ehud Vaks, and disqualified.
Turns out rather than fight the enemy and pound his face into the ground, Miresmaeili went on an eating binge the night before in protest.
But instead of going home in disgrace, he was named "champion of the 2004 Olympic Games" by Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, and told his actions "would be recorded in the history of Iranian glories".
His comments suggest Iran's glories are so scant, pigging out is enough to qualify.
And if that wasn't enough, the government gave him $125,000 – equal to what they awarded Iran's two gold medallists.
The love didn't last long, however – Miresmaeili was booted out of Iran's sporting hierarchy after supporting the "wrong" candidate in the 2009 elections.
8. Hitler's Olympic Torch Relay
It's commonly believed the Olympic Torch Relay was an ancient tradition practised at the original Olympic Games in classical Greece, but this is not the case.
It was invented by the Nazis.
Party member and sports administrator Carl Diem came up with the idea in 1934, and Adolf Hitler backed it, hoping it would rub some of the old "Aryan" goodness of ancient Greece onto stinky Nazi Germany.
Filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl later re-enacted the relay for her propaganda film Olympia, in case people were too stupid to get it the first time around.
Since then, the relay's undergone some pretty radical changes – in recent years the torch has gone into space, been stolen, burned those carrying it and been taken underwater.
In 1976, in a nod to the growing global TV coverage of the games, the flame was "transmitted" via satellite. What next, downloaded via the Pirate Bay?
7. Montreal's Olympic debt
Hosting the Olympics is expensive, and no one knows that better than Montreal.
It took Quebec, where Montreal is located, three decades to pay off the $1.5 billion debt incurred by the city's new stadium, Olympic village, velodrome and "post-modern" apartment complex.
The debt was being paid off with increased taxes on tobacco, a strategy which nearly backfired when Quebec banned smoking in public.
The mayor at the time of the 1976 Games, Jean Drapeau, famously predicted the games would pay for themselves.
"The Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby," were his exact words.
The Rugby World Cup last year is estimated to have left New Zealand $400 million worse off – but it's okay, the Government can just take Valerie Vili's medals to Cash Converters.
6. Gandhi – he's no Michelle Pickles
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – you know, Gandhi – once covered the Olympic Games as a reporter. At least that's what several websites and internet quizzes would have you believe.
Reliable sources such as Wikipedia say he actually spent most of 1932 in prison, and probably wouldn't have had time to pop over to Los Angeles to write about American football and lacrosse, which were featured as demonstration sports.
5. You don't need shoes to run a marathon
Picture an Olympic marathon winner – it's a Kenyan, right? Perhaps an Ethiopian?
Well strangely enough, it wasn't until the 14th Olympics in Rome, 1960, that an African won the marathon.
Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila was a last-minute entry, joining the team literally as the plane to Rome was about to leave. Once in Rome, he couldn't find a good pair of shoes, so ran the marathon barefoot, just like at home, and won.
Four years later he had his appendix taken out just weeks before the games, but that didn't stop him doing it again. Not only did he run the marathon, he broke the world record and said he could have run another 10km, no problem.
To say thanks, Emperor Haile Selassie gave Bikila a white Volkswagen Beetle. Not many athletes can say they were given a car by a bona fide messiah.
It was a mixed blessing, however – Bilika later drove it into a ditch and became a paraplegic, swore he would win the marathon in a wheelchair, then died as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage.
4. The Olympics' dull origins
At the very first Olympic Games, way back when men were men and women weren't allowed to watch 'cause all the men were nude and covered in olive oil, there was only one event – the stadion race.
It was essentially a race from one end of the stadium to the other.
Fourteen Olympiads later, a second event was added – the two-stade race. This was essentially a race from one end of the stadium to the other – and back again.
And at the following games, a third event was added – another race, this time about 5km long, presumably from one end of the stadium to the other and back 15 times. The Greeks obviously weren't known for their originality at this point in history.
The next event added was a race in full armour, carrying a shield and sword – now we're talking – then other sports such as boxing, wrestling and pankration, which was an early form of mixed martial arts.
Boxing was particularly brutal, as killing your opponent wasn't against the rules. It did however, result in disqualification, which hardly seems fair.
3. Banned for drinking beer
The first athlete to be disqualified at the Olympics was Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall. His drug of choice? Beer.
It's hard to believe now, but Liljenwall drank "two beers" before the pistol shooting event to calm his nerves at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
In the end, the Swedish team had to return their bronze medals – considering beer is hardly performance-enhancing, shouldn't they have been bumped up to silver?
2. The never-ending games
The Olympic Games in 1908 were supposed to be in Rome, but Mt Vesuvius erupted, which is as good an excuse as any to quit exercising.
They were switched to London at short notice, and obviously they weren't ready. In the time between the Opening Ceremony (held just three weeks after the eruption) until the games closed, you could have attended no fewer than 26 weekend madness sales at Godfreys.
That's right – the games opened on April 27 and didn't conclude until six months later, on October 31.
1. A gold medal in what?!
When people think of the Olympics, they picture athletes competing in real sports, not tug of war or golf.
In 1908 in London, there was a sport called 'jeu de paume', which also goes by the even more ridiculous name of 'real tennis'. It was essentially playing tennis with your hands.
Also in London was the sport of 'rackets', which was pretty much a British version of squash. It was no surprise when Britain swept all the medals – they were the only country who played the sport.
'Water motorsports' also featured in London for the first and only time. There were three races, and because there was a gale blowing that weekend only one boat finished each race. It's probably the only event in Olympic history where everyone who finished the race got a gold medal.
Staying at the wacky London games of 1908, the Wallabies happened to be on tour in the UK at the time of the games, but the English and Welsh teams were in New Zealand. As a result the final – and only match – was between the Wallabies and Cornwall, who had no international players.
Rugby actually featured in the Olympics a few times, and was strangely dominated by the US, who won the gold twice.
In 1904, St Louis, the Americans threw in the croquet-esque sport of 'roque', took all the medals, and it was never played again.
Cricket was played at the 1900 games in Paris, odd since you don't really associate the French with cricket.
The list gets even stranger if you include demonstration sports – 1924 had 'French kickboxing' and 'la canne', which is French for 'fighting with sticks'; 1900 had ballooning – no, I can't work out how that could be a sport either, and 'longue paume' which is just real tennis played outdoors; 1904 had 'weight training with dumbbells'; 1988 had tenpin bowling; 1912 had 'glima', or 'Icelandic folk wrestling'; and 1992 had roller hockey.
Golf's back in the Olympics, by the way, from 2016.
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16/08/2012 6:35:54 p.m.
this page is actually funny and fill u inside about the stuff u didnt even know about the olympics in the olden days
5/08/2012 1:07:44 a.m.
James Smith wrote:
What about the Olympic event of 'Town Planning'!? The last person to get gold in this was Yrjö Lindegren of Finland at the 1948 London Olympics.
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