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Olympic Memories - controversial moments


Controversial Olympic Moments

While the Olympic Games is obviously about the paricipation, the glory, the emotion and the tears of joy and agony, there is the other side as athletes resort to measures beyond the bounds of morality in the search for Olympic immortality.

Throw in a few political agendas and some dodgy judges, and you have a selection of moments and events that the IOC would rather were not associated with the pinnacle of sport. Here is our top ten selection - in no particular order - of controversial and shocking Olympic occurances:

1. Blood in the Water (Melbourne 1956)

In December 1956, just a month after 200 000 Soviet troops had invaded Hungary to crush a revolt in Budapest, the two nations' teams met in a brutal water polo match at the Melbourne Games that came to be known as the "Blood on the Water" game. Officials ended it before time expired when a Soviet player punched Zador.

Hungary, the eventual gold medalist, emerged the winner in this semi-final contest, but not before a brawl broke out. With Hungary leading 4-0 and only a minute to play, the violence peaked: while referees were attending to other matters, Valentin Prokopov propelled himself out of the water and blindsided Ervin Zador, who had scored twice, with a fist in the eye. Zador’s right eye hemorrhaged; there was blood in the water. The game was wisely ended, with Hungary declared the victors 4-0. This concluded one of the bloodiest events in Olympic history.

2. Black September attack (Munich 1972)

A Palestinian terrorist group, called Black September, seized and eventually killed eleven Israeli athletes inside the athletes village at the 1972 Olympic Games. This heinous act triggered a protracted Israeli reprisal campaign that assassinated a number of Palestinian leaders and at least one innocent victim.

3. 'Disonis'chenko (Montreal 1976)

Boris Onischenko was a member of the Soviet modern pentathlon team who was disqualified after referees discovered that his sword had been modified to enable him to register “hits” on the electronic scoring machine during the epee fencing event by pressing a switch concealed in his grip. Jim Fox, captain of the British team, protested that his opponent was managing to score without hitting him, officials took away the Soviet athlete's sword. He continued with a replacement, but soon afterwards news came through that he had been disqualified.

4. Black power salute (Mexico City 1968)

Two black American athletes have made history at the Mexico Olympics by staging a silent protest against racial discrimination.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200m, stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American National Anthem played during the victory ceremony.

They both wore black socks and no shoes and Smith wore a black scarf around his neck. They were demonstrating against continuing racial discrimination of black people in the United States.

At the medal ceremony, Peter Norman of Australia, who was white, wore an OPHR badge in support of Smith and Carlos' protest. But two days later the two American athletes were suspended from their national team, expelled from the Olympic village and sent home to America. Thirty years later were honoured for their part in furthering the civil rights movement in America.

5. Zola Budd v Mary Decker (1984 Los Angeles)

South African-born barefoot runner Zola Budd's performance as a British athlete at the Los Angeles Olympics quickly turned into a nightmare. In the final of the 3000m American heroine Mary Decker, a double world champion, tripped over Budd's ankles, cutting her heel and falling.

A crowd of 85 000 booed the blameless Budd, an announcer appealed to them to remember 'these people are our guests' and Budd was disqualified, then reinstated. Budd clearly upset by the incident, finished in seventh position.

6. Marathon cheats (St Louis 1904)

The marathon at the St Louis Olympic Games of 1904 was held over a dusty hilly course in the middle of a scorching afternoon. Only 14 of the 32 starters made it to the finish. First home, after three hours 13 minutes, was a American Fred Lorz, who was immediately proclaimed the winner. He had already been photographed with Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of the President of the United States, and was about to be awarded the gold medal, when word got out that he had covered 11 miles as the passenger in a car.

The crowd's acclaim rapidly turned to abuse. Lorz claimed it was a practical joke, he received a lifetime ban, which was later lifted. Thomas Hicks was awarded the race, but he might have been disqualified himself after his handlers gave him strychnine and brandy to keep him going. He collapsed at the finishing line and nearly died.

7. Cassius Clay throws his Olympic medal into the Ohio river

Cassius Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali, was just 18 when he won Olympic gold as a light-heavyweight at the 1960 Games in Rome. He loved the medal, sleeping with it and wearing it on its ribbon on his journey home to Louisville, Kentucky, but when the owner of a whites-only restaurant refused to serve him a hamburger and milkshake, he threw it off the Jefferson County Bridge into the Ohio River. The IOC replaced the medal 36 years later, after the Atlanta Games in 1996 where he lit the Olympic flame.

8. Roy Jones robbed of boxing gold (Seoul 1988)

American Roy Jones landed 86 punches to 32 in the light-middleweight final against South Korea's Park Si-hun but controversially lost. Park was as surprised as anyone by his 3-2 win. One judge admitted a mistake had been made. An investigation eventually found that three of the judges had been wined and dined by South Korean officials. They were suspended but the result was not overturned. A new scoring system was introduced after the farce in Seoul.

9. Jim Thorpe stripped of his medals (Stockholm 1912)

Jim Thorpe, part-French, part-Irish, part Native American, won the pentathlon and the decathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games. He also finished fourth in high jump and seventh in long jump. America greeted his home-coming with a ticker-tape parade, but a year later he was stripped of both medals when he was declared professional for having received money to play minor league baseball years earlier.

A campaign for his reinstatement was only successful after his death and the IOC re-awarded his two gold medals to his children.

10. Ben Johnson v Carl Lewis (Seoul 1988)

The Canadian Ben Johnson destroyed the great Carl Lewis with a run of 9.79 seconds in the 100m. He crossed the finishing line pointing into the air over the last couple of strides. It was four hundredths better than his old world record. Then, in the early hours of a Seoul morning, news broke that Johnson had tested positive for the uses of drugs. The yellow eyes Lewis had spotted as they lined up were a sign of steroid use. For many the Olympics lost its magic at that day in Seoul.

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