The Olympic Games were founded on June 23rd, 1894. Pierre de Coubertin, a French politician, and philanthropist, initiated the founding. He was involved in excavating ancient Greek stadiums and was fascinated by the culture of antiquity, which led him to decide to revive the Olympic Games.
Initially, he based the games on the idea of peace and their accessibility to all, which had once been the main philosophical backbone of the games in Greece. Pierre considered professionalism to be the main enemy of the Olympics.
Today it is safe to say that Pierre de Cubertaine’s original idea failed – big politics and big business came to the Olympic Games. And where big money is circulating, there is always a place for temptations to use it to influence the final result. This article will focus on the most disastrous episodes of the Olympic Games.
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The 1904 Olympic Marathon in St Louis can rightly be considered the worst-ever failure, if only because the titleholder won it by unfair means.
In general, the 1904 Olympics was to be held in Chicago, and the city was preparing an appropriate infrastructure. At the last minute, at the insistence of the highest American political figures, the games were moved to St Louis, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had to twist. It agreed to the postponement, but this entailed many logistical difficulties.
For example, the full marathon course could not be built in time – it was a makeshift course, and all its shortcomings were revealed during the race. Firstly, it was very dusty, which contributed to the rapid congestion of the runners’ lungs, and secondly, the course ran alongside numerous farms from which the dogs attacked the runners.
Thus, one of the favorites had to withdraw early from the course as he was attacked by the dogs and hid from them in a field of corn.
Moreover, it turned out that Frederick Lorz, who reached the finish line first, had driven a car for most of the distance! The offense was noticed, and the medal was forfeited to Thomas Hicks, but he did not win fairly either – he needed a shot of strychnine, a powerful doping drug, twice during the course.
The Olympics in Nazi Germany
By 1936, the Nazi regime in the Third Reich had taken shape, and Adolf Hitler was planning to attack Europe. However, the country inherited the Weimar Republic (the state that existed before Hitler came to power) to host the 1936 Olympics. Many politicians called for the games to be canceled, not unreasonably considering the Nazi regime racist, but they nevertheless took place.
Pierre de Coubertin, who was in a remnant, was even invited to the event. He liked the organization so much that he described Adolf Hitler as “one of the chief creative spirits of the era,” and the IOC indulged Germany in everything. Already after the war, sports officials had to apologize for their actions.
The failure of that Olympics was that the holding of the games by the Third Reich under a generally peaceful scenario convinced the world public that Germany was not about to unleash a war. Adolf Hitler presented himself as an educated, intelligent man, and the German hockey team even included one Jew.
The Olympics were used by the Nazis as a propaganda screen to cover up aggressive military and political preparations, and the vigilance of part of the world public was put to sleep.
Girls and women were first allowed to compete in the Olympic Games in 1928, and from the beginning, they competed in a separate category. This was done on purpose, as the genetics of men and women differed greatly from each other, giving one or the other advantage in different sports.
In 1936, the German Dora Rathje entered the high jump competition. She was regarded as the favorite, as she had demonstrated excellent results at the European championships. Unfortunately, she only managed to place fourth at the Olympics. But a year later, she won the European Championships.
The collision of the situation is that Dora Ratje turned out to be… A man. She had simply never stripped in front of a female competitor, and no IOC official could suspect anything.
After the revelation, Dora Ratier became Henry. He said later that it all started when she was a child when doctors were not immediately able to determine the sex of the child after birth, and for some reason, her parents thought they were bringing up a girl. Dora herself knew she was a boy but was afraid to admit it.
The 1972 Munich bombing
By 1972 the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was still experiencing problems from its Nazi past. The government, therefore, tried to make the best out of the 1972 Summer Olympics that had been awarded to the country in terms of propaganda.
The authorities tried to make the totalitarian Nazi past seem like a shadow of reality by creating an atmosphere of joy, carefree relaxation, and social comfort in the Olympic town. As a result, the organizers had been remiss in their approach to security, allowing almost anyone to enter the compound and bypass security checks.
As a result, on September 5th, a group of Arab terrorists from the “Black Square” organization seized 11 Jewish athletes, two of whom were killed at once because they were resisting. The terrorists demanded the release of the Arab fighters, who were imprisoned in various prisons.
Israel offered help to the FRG to free them, but the authorities decided to deal with them by themselves. An assault was launched in which all the hostages were killed. The 1972 Olympics were a dark spot in the history of the Olympic movement.
In 1980, the Summer Olympics were held in the USSR, but it lost much of its status as about 50 states of the capitalist bloc decided to boycott it. The USSR took the lead in the number of medals. However, the moral value of the medals was greatly overshadowed by the decisions of western countries and their allies.
The decision to boycott it was made against the background of the introduction of Soviet troops into Afghanistan, which countries of capitalism categorically did not support.
Already in 1982, the US hosted the Winter Games, which then many socialist countries decided to ignore. The quality of the competition, in the absence of Soviet, Polish, Hungarian, and many other athletes, also suffered a major setback.
The IOC had failed to reconcile the warring parties in the sporting arena, the basic principle of incompatibility between politics and sport being ignored for the first time at this level. The boycott of the Olympics has subsequently become an effective political tool.
The Soviet fencing team was considered one of the strongest in the world, and they had emerged as favorites for the 1976 Olympics. It is all the more surprising that it was at the epicenter of the scandal that erupted at the competition.
The leader of that team was Boris Onishchenko – the strongest athlete in the country. He was able to compete on equal terms with any opponent, but for some reason, he decided to use an unfair method, and one which no one had ever resorted to.
Behind the hilt of his sword, he mounted an ordinary button with a battery, which he disguised with chamois leather. With each stroke, he pressed the button, an electric circuit was formed, and a light bulb of the judge lit up to record the prick.
The success was only hindered by a minor inconsistency – during one of his lunges, Boris pressed the button on a clear miss. The referees at first thought it was a technical malfunction, but after examining Onishchenko’s sword, they understood everything, admired the ingenuity, and disqualified the Soviet team as a whole.
Attack on the referee
In 2008, the next Summer Olympics was held in China. Cuban taekwondo wrestler Angel Volodia Matos was one of the athletes who took part in it. In 2000 he had already become Olympic champion, but in 2008 he could repeat his success.
In one of his fights, Angel had a large lead, but the referees did not treat him favorably. At least, that is how it seemed to Angel. After the referee punished Matos for delaying a medical, Angel tried to prove the referee wrong.
However, tired of the bickering, he hit him in the head with a trademark ‘twirler,’ smashing his lip. Angel was disqualified by the IOC for life. Even Fidel Castro, who patronized the athlete, did not help.