The Olympic Games. They are a great time of celebration and symbolism. Throughout the years, the athletes who compete are symbols of courage, bravery, and dedication. They are, when they medal, true victors of their sport, but also representations of their nation. This year, in 2016, it is Rio de Janerio, Brazil, that hosts the Games, and we watch our favorites do what they do best — compete.
But even on this great international stage, not everyone is perfect and not everything always goes so smoothly. Through the Games’ history, even with all of its amazing, groundbreaking moments, there are still some serious fails, some shocking inconsistencies, and some odd flukes. And while we love to watch people win, we also love to see things fail a little.
1. The 1988 Seoul roast of the doves
The opening ceremonies are one of the most watched parts of the Olympics, and it’s been like that for decades. Nothing was different during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Millions tuned in and thousands watched in the stands as the ceremony went on and lead to the iconic torch lighting moment. However, at this particular games, they decided to involve doves, which doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad idea, as doves are the timeless symbol of peace.
[bctt tweet=”Nothing was different during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
But there is a problem when you light the doves on fire. You read that right, the doves were literally roasted, marking the last time that doves were allowed at the Olympic Games.
2. The unluckiest strongest man in the world
In the summer of ’36, Berlin was at the center of the world as they hosted the Olympic Games. This particular games featured Thomas Hamilton-Brown, a South African boxer. As it happens in sports, Hamilton-brown was out-boxed in the first round, and woefully ate his sadness away—a reasonable response.
It actually turns out that one of the judges reversed his scores accidentally, giving the win to Hamilton-Brown, but he had gained so much weight during his binge that he was disqualified from the lightweight division.
3. Lip-syncing in Beijing 2008 – oops
The 2008 Beijing Games were pretty amazing, we have to admit it. The opening ceremony was trying to be brighter and grander and more impressive than anything that we’ve ever seen, and it didn’t disappoint. But when a young girl took to the stage to sing “Ode to the Motherland,” something seemed off. It turned out that the beautiful voice that was heard didn’t match the face being seen. Later, we found out that the young girl was rejected for her stage presence and appearance, while the one that appeared to the world, passed with flying colors.
4. No shoes? No Problem
If you were an Olympic athlete preparing to run a marathon, you probably wouldn’t think much about the opponent without shoes on. This was the mistake of every one of Abebe Bikila’s competitors during the 1960 Rome Games. According to accounts, Bikila couldn’t find a pair of shoes that he preferred before the games and decided to run barefoot through the streets of Rome.
Impressively, the Ethiopian athlete not only finished the race, but finished it first, setting a world record and becoming the first black African to win in that sport.
5. The Olympic sport of beer
During the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, mountain biker Geoff Kabush and basketball player Yao Ming squared off. However, the competition wasn’t exactly a sport worthy of the Olympics (depending how you look at it) because it was beer. This is just a reminder that the Olympics aren’t all fun and games, and sometimes you just need to crack open a beer and have a little fun.
6. Height does matter, especially if you’re trying to win
In the 2000 Sydney games, the vault for the women’s gymnastic team was set five centimeters too low. Imagine training your whole life for this one moment, especially considering that many gymnasts don’t make it to two Olympics, and the vault is too short. A simple mistake, but a mistake that someone’s career and legacy is literally depending on. Although the vault was raised after a gymnast pointed out that it didn’t feel or look right, the falls that some faced shook up too many nerves to recover, even with a repeat.
7. A kilted intruder interrupted a marathon
During the 2004 Athens Games, the long-distance Brazilian runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was running a marathon when he was interrupted by Neil Horan. Also known as “The Grand Prix Priest” or “The Dancing Priest,” he is a self-proclaimed Irish Roman Catholic priest who interrupted both the 2003 British Grand Prix and the 2004 Summer Athens Olympics to raise awareness of the nearing apocalypse. I swear I’m not making this up.
8. “Get Lucky” probably wasn’t the best choice
Okay, so I think we can all agree that a bunch of 40-year-old Russian men in military uniforms singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is both pretty terrifying and hilarious. This actually exists, and this was part of the 2012 London Olympics for some reason. The Russian Police Choir sang this song and you have to watch it. I can’t even.
9. Floating is a sport?
Well, it was in the 1904 Summer Olympics, and it was called plunging. Considered a diving event, the plunge for distance included diving into the pool and then staying completely still for 60 seconds face down in the water. It was only featured in one Olympic Games and five plungers completed, all from the United States. It’s a silly sport, mostly, because it has no basis in athleticism because muscle doesn’t float, it sinks.
10. Stop giving judges kicks to the face
A few people have been banned from the Olympics, but Ángel Matos’s way is probably the most badass. During the 2008 Games, Matos was competing in Taekwondo. In the fight against Kazakhstan’s Arman Chilmanov, the fighters were given a minute to recover for injuries and, in the meantime, the judges awarded Chilmanov the win. In response, Matos kicks one of the judges in the face — effectively banning him from the Olympics for life.
11. The 1904 Amazing Race
It’s been said to be one of the most ridiculous and bizarre moments in Olympic history. The competitors themselves are enough to shock, as there were ten Greeks competing that had never ran a marathon, two South African men ran barefoot, and one Cuban athlete was a former mailman who raised his money to get to the states and compete by running across the island. The organizer of the games wanted the runners to be dehydrated in order to test their limits and witness the effects of purposeful dehydration (a common practice at the time).
[bctt tweet=”For some, being better doesn’t only mean more training and focus but sabotage. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
During the race, one man was chased off the course by wild dogs, another suffered from serious hemorrhaging from dust on the course that ripped his stomach lining. The former mailman Félix Carvajal who was making good time, stopped on the side of the road to eat apples only to find out that they were rotten,causing stomach cramps that lead to a nice nap under a tree. Another runner suffering from running cramps and then decided to hitch a ride with passing cars, but then got out and finished the race, coming in first. I think it’s easy to say that this race was wild.
12. A tug of wars
Yes, that’s right. Tug of war was—at one point—an Olympic sport. Nowadays, tug of war is almost exclusively reserved for picnics and middle school class battles, but in the 20th century, tug of war was all the rage. In the 1904 St. Louis Games, tug of war history was made when neither Great Britan or Scandinavia, two of the reigning tug of war champs, grabbed the gold, but the United States. The Milwaukee Athletic Club clutched the gold in the muddy ground and their origin city rejoiced. Except for the fact that not one member was from Milwaukee (most were recruited from Chicago) and that none of the members of the team were even part of the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Either way, they still got the gold.
13. The Queen Bee literally came out of the sky
Queen Elizabeth is a relatively unsuspecting figure. We know her mostly as a figurehead and sole matriarch of the English royal family. But during the 2012 London Olympic Games, she flew in with Daniel Craig as James Bond during the Opening Ceremony. Well, she didn’t actually fly in — it was an actor dressed as the Queen that jumped out of a plane, but either way, this was still a pretty weird and pretty epic way to start the games.
14. The rivalry of a century
We all know that the Olympic Games can be fiercely competitive. They often force its competitors to ask themselves: how far will you go for gold? For some, however, going far does not only mean training harder and focusing more but rather sabotage. In 1994, the Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was training before the Olympic championships when her knee was shattered by a man posing as a photographer. It turned out that Kerrigan’s top rival Tonya Harding’s husband conspired the attack, proving that sometimes people will do anything to win.
Sadly, Harding did win that year. But in the Lillehammer, Norway Games, Kerrigan recovered, with Harding presented as a villain and Kerrigan as a saint. That year, Kerrigan won the silver and Harding came in eighth.
15. When that fifth ring never truly blossomed
Again, the opening ceremonies are a big moment for the Olympics, especially for the nation. Although we can never expect everything to go right, we can certainly hope it doesn’t go terribly wrong. While the 2014 Sochi Opening ceremonies certainly didn’t go terribly, this incredibly expensive opening ceremonies could have at least portrayed the Olympic symbol accurately.
Due to technical difficulties, that fifth ring didn’t open, proving quite embarrassing during the culmination of the ceremony, as the world stopped and stared at the 4 rings, plus one small flower.
16. The slowest swimmer to win the Olympics
When Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea got to the Sydney Olympic stage in 2000, he had never competed before or swam in an Olympic size a swimming pool before. He may not have been the favorite to win the race, but when his competitors were disqualified for false starts, he was the sole swimmer.
He currently holds the slowest record Olympic time, and the race is sort of surreal.
17. It’s not about the game, it’s how you play it
The hardest part about finishing a race is knowing that you’re so far behind that you can’t win. At the Olympics, only three can stand on that podium, and you hope that you’re the highest with your anthem echoing through the stadium. But when you’re in last place in a marathon, what keeps you going? During the 1968 Mexico City Games, Mamo Wolde said, “My country did not send me 11,000 kilometers to start the Olympic Marathon. They sent me here to finish it.” That is the exact type of attitude that deserved the roaring applause the Ethiopian athlete received when he finished 19 minutes after the first place winner.
18. It’s not over ’til it’s over
Frank Shorter had won the marathon in Munich’s 1972 Games. Like most winning Olympians, he was prepared to take his victory lap around a track and wave to fans. However, while he was running around the track, an imposter had actually ran out before him, causing a roar of boos from the stand. While Shorter thought that the crowd was booing him for winning—an unexpected reaction—he found out later that it wasn’t his fault, but the intruders, Norbert Sudhaus.