Ten Startling Facts about the Olympics
August 7, 2012 | Lists
There are two types of people in this world: those who subscribe to false binaries and those who don’t but there’s at least a dozen different kinds of Olympics fans out there (don’t hold us to that), those for whom every banner-raising moment is an occasion to dab tears to the other extreme – those who over-analyze the Games for subtexts of nationalism, body image, etc (This is a probably welcome respite from thesis papers on say, heteronormative composition of public bathrooms for whatever useless degrees they’re working on).
We’re casual fans of the Olympic Games – casual in the sense that if it was a Friday workplace where restrictions of dress were lifted, we’d be sporting flip flops and beer guzzler hats. As swimmers who’d be washed out by the current, even in a public pool, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the likes of Michael Phelps, and in gymnastics, thinking of bars in a wholly different context from the ones we’ve been tossed and/or banned from, has been rewarding. Women’s soccer has impressed, even if the officiating for a recent game was right out of the squared circle – a combatant tortured with an assortment of power tools as the ref counts out the illegal man. While these Games have brought us firsts – half man, half composite materials Oscar Pistorius running against guys who couldn’t be used as Lieutenant Dan stunt doubles from Forrest Gump – there are facts from its storied past that should bring up the rear: Games moments that should sooner be forgotten in this our list of Ten Startling Fact about the Olympics:
1. Torch relay’s dubious origins.
Dr Carl Diem, 1936 games organizing committee head and ardent supporter of the Third Reich, was behind the first relay. How could a man whose name was so close to carpe diem, be so loathsome?
2. Specially-designated “demonstration zones” during the Beijing Olympics.
In order to protest, applicants had to get permits and provide identification. For the Chinese Games, 70 were submitted and not surprisingly, no permits were awarded by the communist government.
3. First Olympic TV broadcast – dubious origins.
First broadcast was done at the behest of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister. In keeping with that tradition, NBC has avoided covering all foreign nationals competing, provided they didn’t at least spend some time training in the US.
4. First Olympic athlete caught using banned substance.
Hans-Gunnar Jiljenwall, Swedish pentathlete, had “two beers” to calm his nerves during the 1968 Games. This is perhaps not the soundest strategy, as according to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, “self-medicating with alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of…substance-abuse problems, without addressing the underlying anxiety.”
5. Most medals returned due to doping – 5 (including three gold).
Marin Jones was found guilty of perjury, before a grand jury investigating steroids in sport and sentenced to six months in the slammer. She’d nabbed medals in 100 meter, 200 meter, 4X400, 4X100 relay and had even gotten a bronze in the long jump.
Fred Lorz was disqualified from the 1904 marathon just as he was to receive his gold medal, when officials found out he’d ridden much of the race as a passenger in a car.
In his defense, please see our list of Why Running is Terrible – referring mostly to marathon running and not the man who’d be a danger to restaurateurs everywhere if he was a dine-and-dasher, Usain Bolt.
7. Basketball game ends up 2-0.
The Polish basketball team (in a team bus driven by a rabbi, priest and a minister perhaps?) beat Peru in the 1936 games when the South American country pulled their entire Olympic squad in protest over the outcome of a controversial soccer game against Austria (Peru had been trouncing the Austrians up until that point, when a spectator brandishing a gun rushed onto the field – the game was ordered replayed). Peru forfeited the match, hence the win by a two free-throw score.
8. We aren’t Chinese if you please.
Posing for a photo, the Spanish basketball team pushes their eyes to the sides as a “gesture of affection” toward Chinese hosts. This did not go over well.
9. Worst nickname ever.
Magnus Wislander of Sweden was dubbed “the Hose” because of his ability to maneuver his way through the opposition’s defense in handball. Second worst nickname: FedRinka, the portmanteau of Swiss tennis doubles duo Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. On the plus side, there were no boxers nicknamed “Kid Gravity” or “The Good Samaritan”.
10. Long Black Veil.
At the London Games, the first two female athletes participated from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country where they still cannot vote, drive or venture outdoors unaccompanied (Tempting to go Vaudeville and ask, “but can they do this?”)
Source: Now you Know: Big Big of Sports