|History of the Summer Olympic Games|
| 1896 | 1900 | 1904 | 1908 | 1912 | 1916 | 1920 | 1924 | 1928 | 1932 | 1936 |
1940 | 1944 | 1948 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1964 | 1968 | 1972 | 1976
1980 | 1984 | 1988 | 1992 | 1996 | 2000 | 2004 | 2008
|Site: Athens, Greece|
Dates: April 6-15
Total Athletes: 311
A young French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin is attributed to the revivalof the ancient Olympic Games in its modern form and was key to the foundationof the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at a Paris conference in 1894.The Greeks, who were the authors of the primitive games, were quick to offer avenue for the modern games, Athens, Greece. It would be the first OlympicGames in 1,503 years since the 293rd and final edition of the original Olympicera was held in 393 A.D.
|A photograph of the interior of the Panathenian Stadium before the start of the 1896 Olympic Games. (Courtesy of: Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive)|
Coubertin's original idea was to revive the Games in 1900 in Paris, France. Ina presentation made to a world athletics congress in 1894, 78 delegates fromsome 34 countries were so enthralled with the renewal of the Games, theydecided they did not want to wait until the turn of the century and secondly,they felt the Olympics should return to where it ended, Athens, Greece.
While other countries had attempted to stage their own version of the Olympick Games in previous years, recognition of the events were non-existent since it catered to a segregated portion of the world population. TheGreeks hosted variations of the games as well, populated primarily of their ownpeople, with minimal credibility. The 1896 affair, which attracted some 311athletes from 13 nations, garnered world-wide recognition since individualathletes were selected on a national basis and was a symbolism for global unityamong the world of nation states.
The spotlight of the games was the venue of the track and field events. It washosted in the classical Panathenaic stadium, which had been reconstructed inspectacular marble fashion for the Games, thanks in large part to thegenerosity of philanthropist Georgios Averoff. So successful were the gamesthat more than two-thirds of the population of Athens attended the events. Thesuccess of the games was not lost on the Greeks, who made a valiant effort tosecure the Games permanently for Greece. However, the power of Coubertin, thepresident of the IOC, and the international principles had been establishedonce and for all.
As for the Olympics themselves, there were no events at all for women. Theswimming meets were held in the Bay of Zea, where temperatures hovered over 55degrees. The prominent sports at these Olympics were track and field, cycling,fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.
Not surprisingly, the Greeks dominated the competitions, winning 47 medals,well ahead of the 19 secured by the United States, 15 by Germany and 11 fromFrance.
The U.S. did win 11 gold medals, compared to the 10 won by the Greeks. TheU.S. also dominated in track and field, winning nine of 12 events.
One key event to the Games was the marathon, suggested by French historianMichael Breal, who knew of the legend of Greek hero Pheidippides. Pheidippideswas sent to Athens in 449 B.C. to deliver the news of victory by the Grecianarmy over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. As legend would have it, uponhis arrival, Pheidippides yelled out "Rejoice, we conquer!" and dropped dead.
Ironically, the marathon was won by a Greecian postal messanger Spiridon Louisin a time of two hours in 58 minutes. He was embraced by King George, whorewarded him with an antique vase, a golden cup, a laurel wreath, and a horseand cart.
On April, 6, 1896, American James Connolly of Suffolk, Massachusetts had thedistinction of being the first Olympic Champion since Barasdates of Armenia inboxing in AD 369 with a triple jump of 44 feet, 11 3/4 inches (13.71 m). Connollyvery nearly missed the event, which was scheduled on the first day of theGames. Unbeknownst to him and the rest of the American delegation, the Greekswere still using the Greek Orthodox Calendar in 1896, meaning their arrival onMarch 25, was really April 5, one day prior to his event.
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|Site: Paris, France|
Dates: May 20 - October 28
Total Athletes: 1,330
Paris, France, was the host of the second modern day Olympic Games. However,historians were very critical of these games due to lack of organization. Thesymbolism displayed in Athens four years earlier, was nearly extinguished bythe committee preparing the Games in France.
The problems arising from these Games ultimately served as a seminar on how notto host an international event such as the Olympics. A circus-like atmospherepermeated the Games. There was for instance, no opening or closing ceremonies.Events were spread out over a span of six months and were so scattered thattoday, it is difficult for historians to determine which events were classifiedunder the Olympic flag. Due to this, it is difficult for historians toaccurately determine the significance of women in these Games.
IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin, while promoting physical education forgirls and women, was not in favor of their public competition. As such, the IOCnever officially approved the participation of women, although the FrenchExhibition authorities staged events for them anyway.
Historians are puzzled as to whether to credit Swiss Helene de Portales as thefirst woman Olympic champion for her performance in yachting. Portales won theevent on May 25, some 1 1/2 months shy of what has been tabbed the actual startof track and field events (July 14). Great Britain's Charlotte Cooper wouldseem to have the same problem, capturing the tennis event on July 11.
Using that criteria, does the distinction of the first woman Olympic championgo to Margaret Abbott of the United States, who captured the golf event onOctober 3, although golf was never approved as an Olympic sport and would neverappear on any future Olympic program?
Ironically, these three women were totally unaware that they were participatingfor a medal. These were staged as international exhibitions during the courseof the Olympics by the French committee, thereby clouding what events were tobe attributed to the Olympic Games.
Frenchman Michael Theato did not find out until 12 years later that he had wonthe marathon. He was fortunate, as many athletes were never informed they wereOlympic champions.
Swimming events were held in the Seine, bereft with boats, waves, heat andgarbage.
Track and Field competitions were held on the grass turf of the Racing Club deFrance in the Bois de Boulogne. The disorganization led to very fewspectators.
The Americans dominated track and field as they did in Athens, winning 17 of 23gold medals, while increasing their all-time Olympic total to 26 firsts in 35events.
The Parisians treated the Games as an affair of state, promoting nationalpresitige over international and global unity. The surprise here was theCoubertin held little influence over the direction of the games amongst his ownpeople.
Coubertin attempted, with minimal success, to create a private Olympic Gamesorganizing committee populated with Parisian notables. Needless to say, thiswas denounced swiftly from the global committee. Coubertin was forced todisband the committee and except for the benefit of the international communitythat a second modern Olympic Games had been held in France.
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|Site: St. Louis, Missouri (USA)|
Dates: July 1 - November 23
Total Athletes: 687
It can be honestly stated that the 1904 Games was as unorganized and as pitifulas the games hosted by Paris four years earlier. Apparently the IOC failed tolearn its lesson of four years earlier, and as such, disorganization ranrampant.
IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin thought it was important to take thisinternational event to the English-speaking world for the first time.Coubertin, who had shared his visions of the Olympics with William RaineyHarper, the first president of the University of Chicago in 1893, used hisinfluence to award the 1904 Olympics to Chicago in 1901. Chicago communityleaders did a masterful job of coordinating, planning and commissioningprojects such as the world's first stadium with a retractable roof.
Unfortunately, Chicago ran into fierce pressure from St. Louis civic andbusiness leaders that were in the process of planning their own internationalevent, the World's Fair in the same year as the Olympics. The St. Louiscontingent became frightened that they would loose visitors away from theirevent and put pressure on Chicago to postpone the Games to 1905. Chicagooffered to allow cheap transportation to take visitors back and forth from theGames to the World's Fair, but this was not a fitting compromise to St. Louisofficials and Fair commissioners. The IOC, in an effort to protect the symbolicquadrennial chronology, refused to postpone the Games an additional year.
This pitted city against city. Ironically, Coubertin was quick to shift thegames from Chicago to St. Louis, instead of standing his ground against World'sFair commissioners. It was a fait-a complis when U.S. President TheodoreRoosevelt gave his stamp of approval for the transfer of games to St. Louis.Historians are still perplexed as to why Chicago surrendered its rights soeasily, other than it is believed that many Chicago Olympic officials, also hadinterests in the fair. Coubertin was a no-show to the Games.
Some of the events of the 1904 Olympics were basketball (as a demonstrationsport only), baseball and lacrosse, the plunge-for-distance (included in theswimming program), and a form of water polo. Boxing also made its debut in St.Louis, although it was limited in participation to Americans. Americansdominated the events in participation and in medals, as out of the 687 athletesparticipating, 525 were Americans. It was not hard to reason why Americanswalked away with 87 medals.
There was a variety of reasons for the low number of foreigners, not the leastof which was the Russo-Japanese War, which required the attention of GreatBritain. The dual celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the LouisianaPurchase, in which Thomas Jefferson's 1803 deal of the Century doubled the sizeof the United States, was still not enough time for the French government toforget.
Blacks participated for the first time. Two Zulu tribesmen from Africaparticipated in the marathon and George Poage of Milwaukee, third in the 400-meter hurdles final, was the first black to win a medal.
The true hero of the games turned out to be Ireland's Thomas Kiely, whoparticipated in the 10 event all-around competition, the precursor to thedecathalon, which would debut in 1912. Kiely would go on to win the first evermedal for Ireland.
On a positive note, St. Louis seemed to be better prepared and better organizedin the staging of events than did its predecessors in Paris four years earlier.However, much like Paris, the ceremonies were limited and run poorly and therewas mass confusion as to which events were designated Olympic and which weretermed exhibitions.
In the end, crowds were modest at best and there were very few nationaldignitaries.
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|Site: London, England|
Dates: April 27 - October 31
Total Athletes: 2,035 (36 women)
The 1908 Olympic Games was a resounding success after the debacles of theprevious two sites (Paris and St. Louis). The spirit of the games could beattributed to the Greeks, who succeeded in staging an intermediate Olympics in1906 in Athens. Although done for their own nationalistic purposes, it could besaid that the structure and success of the games led to the preparedness twoyears later by the Brits. The games were staged by the government subsidizedinternational Olympic Games in Athens. Some 900 athletes, from 20 participatingcountries attended.
There was no disputing that the Greeks had open distain for Baron Pierre deCoubertin and his IOC members. Neither Coubertin or IOC members attended any ofthe Games' events in Athens.
London was awarded the 1908 games because it was the belief of the committeethat Rome was neither organized nor financially capable of supporting aninternational event such as the Olympics.
Londoners proved to be quite meticulous in their planning of events,festivities and even impressed IOC officials by printing and circulating therules of the upcoming events more than one year in advance.
Unlike the previous two Olympics, the opening ceremonies met and exceeded IOCexpectations. King Edward and Queen Alexandra opened the games on July 13, 1908in Shepard's Bush Stadium. High-ranking officials and some 40,000 spectatorsattended the opening spectacle. Coubertin and IOC members were ceremoniouslypresented to the King and Queen and the national and international organizingcommittees were present to review the parade of 22 nations and consisting ofsome 2,000 athletes. It would be the first time that gold, silver and bronzemedals would be standardized for some 109 events and 21 sports categories. Itwas also the first time that events would be limited by the number of entries.
This would be called the Olympics of "FIRSTS". This was the first Olympics inwhich there was actual awarding of gold medals, the standardization of themarathon distance, the introduction of figure skating, the first winter sportto appear in an Olympics, and the introduction of women's gymnastics as ademonstration sport.
The standardization of the marathon to 26 miles, 385 yards was chosen to letthe participants finish in front of the King and Queen's royal box. The final385 yards, the distance entering the Stadium, played a significant role in thismarathon when Italian runner Dorando Pietri entered the Olympic Stadium first,well ahead of the runners behind him. Dazed and disoriented from the heat,Pietri initially turned the wrong way from the finish line. A British officialpointed him in the right direction, but Pietri kept collapsing. Pietriinitially did not accept the aid of the Brit officials, fearingdisqualification. However, he continued to collapse from exhaustion to thepoint that officials ran to his aid. When American John Hayes entered thearena, officials carried Pietri across the finish line and had the Italian flagraised before Hayes even crossed the finish line. A protest ensued and wasupheld, although Pietri was awarded a golden cup from Queen Alexandra the nextday and became an international celebrity.
With the addition of new nations, came new problems. Organization bynationality came under conflict when nations such as New Zealand and Irelandentered the arena and wanted separate and distinct participation under its ownflag. Austrian Empire protested the separate delegation of athletes fromBohemia, while Poland also was positioning for independent representation. Itwas the first time that politics had reared its ugly face.
With the addition of medals, came a high degree of competitive rivalry betweenparticipants and nations. A fierce feud developed between the Americans andBrits. The IOC mistakenly put all judging in the hands of Great Britain, whoat the time was the most accomplished sporting nation in the world. However, itwas left to the IOC judges to regulate the venues and interpret the rules. Manyof the decisions of British judges and referees came under intense scrutinyfrom the American delegation, which continued even months afterwards. Thisactually turned into a positive as it would be the last Olympics that wouldhave home-country officiating. International judges became a staple of theGames from then on.
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|Site: Stockholm, Sweden|
Dates: May 5 - July 22
Total Athletes: 2,547
The 1912 Games was a rather pleasant experience on all fronts. The IOC andStockholm organizing committees got along extremely well mainly because thelatter was spirited by founding IOC member Victor Balck and Sigfrid Edstrom,who would ultimately be the future IOC president (1942-52) and would play asignificant role in stabilizing the Games through the tumultuous World War IIyears.
This would be the first games in which the Arts played a significant role inmedals. IOC president Baron Pierre de Coubertin, under a Franco-Germanpseudonym of Georges Hohrod and M. Eschbach, garnered the poetry medal.
The Olympics was now beginning to free itself from conflicts of other nationalor international events and was gaining prestige as a vehicle for expandinginternational relations. Japan became the first East Asian nation toparticipate in the Olympics and with the enormous success of Finn, HannesKolehmainen, Scandinavians became extremely engrossed in the Olympics.
However, no Games could be totally free of conflict and this one was nodifferent. Tensions grew between the national Olympic committees and thesports' federations prior to the Games. For instance, the Russians protestedthe appearance of Finland, while the Austrians demanded the ouster of Bohemia.Germany demanded that Hungary be prevented from marching as an independentcongregation, while the Serbs sought similar independence from the IOC. Thiswould be a continuous problem that the IOC knew they would have to deal with.
The French fencing team foreited its participation in an equipment dispute,while a rules dispute in Greco-Roman wrestling led to one 11-hour match and awalkover gold medal, the disqualification of Jim Thorpe the following year forviolating amateurism rules.
Coubertin and the French National Olympic Committee lost their bid to includeboxing as a competitive event. Swedish law forbade the sport and as suchCoubertin resisted any attempts to make this an issue.
Against Coubertin's wishes, female participation nearly doubled and swimmingwas added to the women's program. Australia's Fanny Durack became the firstfemale Olympic swimming champion, winning the 100-meter freestyle in 1 minute,22 seconds after setting a world record of 1 minute, 19 seconds in apreliminary race. Durack created quite a stir by performing the crawltechnique, a technique perfected by men and thought to be very unladylike.
Thorpe was among three athletes that took center stage during these Olympics:The other two were Hannes Kolehmainen and Duke Kahanamoku.
The 22-year old Kolehmainen, the son of Hawaiian royalty, captured the 10,000-meter by nearly a minute and won the 5,000 meter race in a photo finish withFrenchman Jean Bouin, winning in a world-record time of 14:36:6, a time thatwould hold for 15 years.
Kahanamoku's world record in the 100-meter freestyle swimming race set thestandard for class that would be emulated by others later on.
Both Kolehmainen and Kahanamoku would have a chance to add to their legend inlater Olympics, although Thorpe, an American Indian, would put a stamp on theOlympics with his five-event pentahlon (since discontinued) and 10-eventdecathalon in world-record style. He also placed fourth in the open divisionhigh jump and seventh in the long jump. After the Olympics, Thorpe would leavetrack and field and become a professional football and baseball player. Heforfeited his medals the following January when it was discovered that he hadonce played baseball for $35 a week and was thus considered, at least in theeyes of the IOC, a "professional". Sweden's Hugo Wieslander, the athlete whoplaced second to Thorpe, refused to accept the gold medal. It wouldn't be until70 years later, some 30 years after his death in 1953, that the IOC returnedhis name to the record book and sent his family the medals.
The Swedes dominated the overall medals chart with 65, compared to 61 for theUnited States. They excelled in women's gymnastics, diving and the equestrianevents.
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|Site: Berlin, Germany|
Due to outbreak of World War I, it was determined that the 1916 Olympic Gameswould not be played. The IOC had decided during the 1912 Stockholm Games thatif a disruption occurred preventing the playing of the games, the intervalbetween Games would not altered.
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|Site: Antwerp, Belgium|
Dates: April 20 - September 12
Total Athletes: 2,607
Antwerp was rewarded the Olympic Games for 1920. It was quite befitting thatthe Olympic ideal and banner would be put in the hands of a country that hadbeen so ruined by war. Antwerp would be given the dubious task of drawingtogether the world's athletes in a message of "rebirth and revitalization".
This would also be the first time that the private efforts, money, time andlabor would contribute to the building of the Games' facilities andhospitalities. Unfortunately, the same feelings did not persist amongstnations. The attendees were limited to the war's victorious allied and neutralnations. This was of course against the true ideals of the Olympic message, andmuch to the dismay of the IOC.
The 1920 Games introduced new Olympic traditions such as the oath of athletesduring the opening ceremonies and taken on behalf of all competitors (2,607)from all countries (29).
Most of the athletes of Olympiad VII were war veterans, still wearing theirscars. One of the more inspirational stories was that of Frenchman JosephGuillemot, a soldier whose lungs had been severely damaged by mustard gas andwas not expected to be much competition in the distance run. However, Guillemotwon the 5,000-meter against 23-year old Paavo Nurmi, who would go on to winthree other gold medals, including the 10,000-meter event. In fact, it would beNurmi's only loss to someone other than a Finn in an Olympic career spanningthree Olympiads, nine gold medals and three silver medals.
Nurmi's teammate, Finn Hannes Kolehmainen, capped his Olympic career with amarathon victory, his fourth gold medal. In total, the Finns would win 11 goldmedals in track and field, more than holding their own against the Americans,especially Charley Paddock, who had been tabbed as the "World's Fastest Human"after his win in the 100-meter.
Duke Kahanamoku continued his dominance of the water by capturing the freestyleraces at 100 and 800 meters.
American Boxer Eddie Eagan would win the light heavyweight gold medal and 12years later would become the first person to win gold medals in both the Summerand Winter Olympics when he was part of the U.S. four-man, bobsled team.
Albert Hill of Great Britan won the 800 and 1,500 meters at the age of 36,while the host Belgians won a few medals. Cyclist Henry George won the 50-kilometer event and the soccer team defeated the Czech team, 2-0 in a forfeitas the Czechs thought they were the recipients of unfair and biased refereeing,that they walked off the field.
IOC founder and President Baron Pierre de Coubertin introduced the officialOlympic Flag.The interlocked rings stood for Olympic unity of Africa, Asia, Europe, theAmericas and Oceania. The colors of the flag (white, blue, yellow, black, greenand red) were selected because they were found on every national flag in theworld.
It is custom today that the original Olympic flag be handed over to the mayorof the next city during the closing ceremonies. The flag is to fly in the townhall until the close of that city's Games.
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|Site: Paris, France|
Dates: May 4 - July 27
Total Athletes: 3,092
This would be the last Olympics for IOC founder and president Baron Pierre deCoubertin, who had reigned over the Games since 1896. As a honor to him and anattempt to incur his resignation, the committee awarded the 1924 Games toParis. Paris rewarded Coubertin's faith by making up for the disaster of 1900.
Paris nearly lost its chance as host in 1923 when the French economy slippedmiserably, thus putting Los Angeles on alert, that they could inherit theOlympics in 1924 should France be unable to pool its resources. That, inconjuction, with the flooding of the Seine River, only helped to aggravate analready tedious situation. Fortunately, France was able to rebound in time,thus pushing LA back to 1932.
Growth and expansion would continue as the national Olympic Committees grew to44 and the number of participants to 3,000. Delegations were limited to oneteam per contest and four competitors per individual event. The committee alsolimited the number of medal events in an effort to standardize the sportsprograms.
Women participation continued to grow to 130 in great part because of thegrowing number of sports federations and by the overall acceptance of women andtheir issues during the "Roaring 20s." Unfortunately, the IOC did not share theopinion of others towards women.
Now, six years after World War I, 44 nations, 15 more than in Antwerp, turnedout to participate in the Parisian Olympiad. Because of Paris' tremendousaccessibility and central location, more spectators than ever before turned outto witness the events. It is believed that "scalping" got its origin at theseOlympics and in particular for the Opening of the Games, which was presidedover by French President Gaston Doumergue.
The Americans, who dominated certain events in previous Olympics, solidifiedtheir dominance in virtually all events. The only sports in which theystruggled were cycling and gymnastics, although Frank Kriz performed wellenough to earn a gold medal for the Americans, the first time it had occurredsince 1904.
Johnny Weissmuller gained fame and even carried the torch of Hawaiian DukeKahanamoku, who dominated swimming in 1912 and 1920. Weismuller captured threegold medals in swimming and a bronze in water polo. He would later gain famefor his role as TARZAN in the movies.
Robert LeGendre, who set a world record in the long jump despite failing toqualify for the U.S. long jump team, was a rising star in the Games.LeGendre, participating in the penathalon, comprising the long jump, javelin,discus, and 200-and-1,500 meter runs, LeGrendre jumped 25 feet, 5 3/4inches,nearly three inches more than William Dee Hubbard of the U.S., the officiallong jump champion.
Benjamin Spock, who would later gain fame as author of the acclaimed bestsellerThe Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, was the No. 7 rower in theshell that won the eight-oared shell with coxswain.
But no one stood out more than the amazing Finn, Paavo Nurmi, who solidifiedhis place in history by winning four gold medals and actually would have won afifth possibly had the Finns not pulled him from the 10,000-meter run. AnotherFinn won that event, Vilho "Ville" Ritola. Overall, the Finns earned 10 goldmedals, second to only the U.S., which won 12.
France had its taste of victory when countrymen Armand Blanchonnet set asizzling pace in cycling, winning by a lopsided time of 10 minutes, the mostdominating victory in Olympic history.
There were eight world records and 25 Olympic records established on the trackand in the pool.
The Games were not without its incidents. Due to the extremely hightemperatures (113 degrees) or the length of the Games, partisanship reared itsugly head, no more so than during a U.S./France rugby game, which saw theAmericans win. The victory sparked a riot in the stands, resulting in severalinjuries.
And despite the protests and pleas of the IOC, the French Government wasadamant in their banishment of Germany and Austria for the 1924 Games.Consequently, this led to some ill will and some international incidents bymilitantly policing the visa process.
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|Site: Amsterdam, Netherlands|
Dates: May 17 - August 12
Total Athletes: 3,014
For the first time in history, Pierre de Coubertin, the founder and longtimepresident of the IOC, did not attend the IX Olympiad because of retirement.Belgian Count Henri de Bailet-Latour, the new IOC President, stood beforePrince Hendrik to open the Games.
By now, the Olympiad idea had taken growth. No longer were there fears thatthis might be the final Games. In fact a record 46 nations and 3,014 athletesparticipated and competed in 109 medal events.
Amsterdam opened the doors to women in the Olympics, allowing them in track andfield competitions. They participated in the high jump, the 100-and-200 metersprints, the 4x100 meter relay and the 800-meter run. Prior to 1928, women hadonly been permitted to compete in tennis, golf, archery, figure skating,yachting, swimming, diving and fencing. Tennis was dropped because of the factthat all the best players, both male and female, were professional.
Boughera El Ouafi, an Algerian colonial but competing for France, became thefirst track and field woman gold medallist. She won the marathon. However,things turned bad when during the 800 meters, Germany's Lina Radke, the winnerof the event, led a group of women in various states of collapse across thefinish line. Immediately, critics jumped on this event as their reasoning fornot allowing women in such physically demanding sports. From this point on, theIOC, led by Lator, would ban women from participating in any races beyond halfa lap. That would stand for 32 years until the 1960 Rome Games.
Finnish legend Paavo Nurmi capped a sensational Olympic career by addinganother gold medal and 12th of his illustrious career.
Canadian Percy Williams stunned spectators with his brilliance in the 100-and200-meter sprint, while swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, improved his dominance offour years earlier with gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4 x 200meter freestyle relay.
Germany, fresh off its probation for its aggressiveness in World War I,finished second only to the United States in gold and overall medals with 10and 31 versus 22 and 31 for the U.S.
Ibrahim Moustafa (wrestling) and Zarid Simaika (diving) took three medals forEgypt, the first African nation to field an autonomous delegation. Japan tookits first three medals in track and field, and the Uruguayans repeated theirsoccer domination (on their way to victory in the first World Cup in 1930).India also entered its first Olympic field hockey team and beat the host Dutch,3-0 in the final to begin a streak of gold medals through 1960.
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|Site: Los Angeles, California (USA)|
Dates: July 30 - August 14
Total Athletes: 1,408
Los Angeles had nine years to prepare for these Games. Voted as host in 1923,Los Angeles had already build a stoic Colosseum that could be expanded to holdover 105,000 fans. LA was able to whether the 1929 stock market disaster with a1928 passage of the California Olympiad Bond Act, that provided financingthrough a government guarantee and loans.
LA proved to be a wonderful host for the games, developing an Olympic Villagethat overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The games also marked the first time maleathletes housed together in the Baldwin Hills of LA. However, this createdquite a stir as foes were called to co-habitat with one another leavingtraining secrets in jeopardy. Participation was more than half less than whathad appeared in Amsterdam. Even IOC members stayed away for the most part.
One key addition implements by Los Angeles was the"photo finish" camera to eliminate any controversial decisions made by refereesor officials of each event. It paid dividends immediately, when a review ofthe film awarded the winner of a 100-meter track event to Eddie Tolan, afterthe scoreboard had tabbed his teammate Ralph Metcalfe the winner.
Another innovation was the awarding of medals to athletes at the end of theirparticular event, rather than at the closing ceremonies. The athlete, as isthe case even today, would stand atop a podium to receive their medal. The onlytime that did not occur was for those athletes that won events at distantvenues. In that case, those athletes were given their medals at the close ofthe Games.
Another innovation was the juggling of the alphabet for each country so thatrival or hostile countries would not have to enter behind one another. As apositive, China made its first foray into the Games.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the Games was the expulsion of thegreat Finn, Paavo Nurmi, the winner of 12 medals, nine of which were gold.Apparently, the IOC had uncovered that Nurmi had padded his expense accountwhile racing that spring in Europe and ruled on the eve of the Games, that hewould be disqualified.
Vice President Charles Curtis opened what would become one of the best Olympicsin history.
In track and field, all events registered world records but one, the long jump.Japanese men dominated swimming events, winning all but one gold medal. Theonly non-Japanese winner was American Buster Crabbe. Crabbe won the 400-meterfreestyle and would later go on to notoriety in screen and film as a Hollywoodactor.
Another athlete to gain greatness at these Games was a woman, Mildred "Babe"Didriksen, who won gold medals in the hurdles and javelin and a silver medal inthe high jump despite tying Jean Shiley at a new world record height of 5 feet,5 1/4 inches. In a subsequent jump-off, Didriksen's style was ruled illegal,although the jump became legal the next year.
Unlike other Games, spectator appearance was genuinely impressive, treatingforeigners with respect as U.S. guests.
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|Site: Berlin, Germany|
Dates: August 1 - 16
Total Athletes: 4,066
The 1936 Games would take on national as well as historic importance because ofthe appearance of German ruler Adolph Hitler, who was out to prove that theGerman's blue-eyed, blond-haired Aryan race was superior. It was the beginningof a propaganda platform that would catapult him into worldwide prominence fromthat point on.
The 11th Olympiad would also be remembered for the feats of one James Cleveland(Jesse) Owens, who was nothing short of spectacular in difficult circumstances.Owens dominated each event he participated, winning the 100 and 200-metersprints, the long jump and the 4 x 100-meter relay.
|The last of 3000 runners that carried the Olympic torch from Olympia, Greece, arrives in the Lustgarten in Berlin to light the Olympic Flame and start the 11th Summer Olympic Games. (Courtesy of: Corbis-Bettmann)|
Owens, who had already earned medals in the sprints, and was certainly thechoice in the long jump, entered the arena to participate in the long jump.Running down the runway in his warm-ups, he jumped into the pit. Germanofficials chose to count that as one of his jumps. Shocked and shaken, Owensfouled in his second attempt. Luz Long, a German by birthright, settled Owensdown in his final attempt to qualify for the long jump finals and Owens wasable to easily qualify. Owens easily won the competition, four and a halfinches ahead of Long.
Germany was awarded the '36 Olympics in 1932 when German was governed by theWeimar Republic. The IOC mistakenly assumed the Games would help a worn-tornGermany, who had been saddled by the Treaty of Versailles, to ingratiateGermany back into the European community.
It was difficult for outsiders to notice the importance or power Nazis weregaining in the Reichstag. By 1933, Hitler had been tabbed chancellor and whenPaul von Hindenberg died in 1934, Hitler assumed power, much to the dismay offoreign nations. While he enjoyed vast popularity in his homeland, he wastroublesome for the rest of the European community.
By this time, there was a growing fear within the IOC and beyond that therewould be discrimination against Jews. IOC president Baillet-Latour asked forand received assurances that Jews would be allowed to participate in the Games.The president of the Berlin Organizing Committee, Theodor Lewald, a Jewhimself, gave guarantees to the IOC president. Carl Diem, the OrganizingCommittee secretary general and person in charge of the flame relay from Greeceto Berlin, also was of Jewish origin. Both men kept their positions through theGames only because of Baillet-Latour's threat that Hitler would lose the Gamesif the two men were replaced.
Many countries, included the United States, threatened a boycott of the Games.The Amateur Athletic Union in the United States, voted 58-56 to attend theGames.
Hitler had begun his propaganda pitch months earlier, by sending out more then3,000 bulletins on how Germany had grown since the war and for the grandOlympic Show they could expect for the XI Olympiad.
These Olympics would be remembered for the moral convictions of the commoncitizenry and athletes rather than the performances themselves. People likeIndian hockey star Dhayan Chan openly refused Hitler's personal invitation tomove to Germany.
Hitler could not have been more proud of his Aryan race, as a German capturedthe Games' first gold medal, Hans Woellke, in the shot put. A Finn, SuloBarlund, close enough to have the looks of the German race, and German GerhardStock, won the next set of medals. Following suit, two Finns and a Swede, allof which fit the Aryan style, captured medals next.
In day three of the competition, black Americans Cornelius Johnson and DavidAlbritton finished first and second in the high jump posing a huge problem forHitler. Hitler, who had stated in propaganda sheets that the United Statesshould be ashamed for allowing medals to be won by Negroes, swore he wouldnever shake hands with any of them. He left the stadium before the start of themedal ceremony.
Other innovations at the XI Games would be the introduction of live television,cultural pageantry and the first official film of the Olympics. It would alsomark the introduction of basketball to the Olympics, which was won by theAmericans.
The true reality of the German Olympics is that six Olympic winners would notsurvive the War and be put to death by the Germans.
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|Japan - CANCELLED|
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|London - CANCELLED|
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|Site: London, England|
Dates: July 29 - August 14
Total Athletes: 4,099
London appeared to be the logical choice for the 1948 Olympics, after havinglost the '44 Games because of the war. While other cities had bid for theGames, the IOC had already set a precedent of placing the Games in an arearavaged by war. Antwerp was chosen for the 1920 Games following World War I.
London was chosen as the 1944 site in '39, while the IOC was under thedirection ofHenri de Baillet Latour. However, months later, Belgium and other Europeanneighbors were overtaken by Germany's advances. Baillet Latour did not conveneanother IOC session until after 1939 and for all intensive purposes, had turnedover power to Vice President Sigfrid Edstrom in 1945. Edstrom became acting IOCpresident in 1942 following Baillet Latour's death. Under the direction ofEdstrom, London was given the nod for the '48 Games in 1945.
Naturally with Britain being the host, both Germany and Japan were not invitedand did not participate in the Games because of their participation in the war.
The IOC maintained its important flame relay ritual from Greece to GreatBritain. The flame stopped for services at the memorial stele of Baron Pierrede Coubertin, the father of the modern-day Olympics, and again in Lausanne fora memorial service at the grave containing the rest of his remains. The flamemanaged to bypass Germany.
The 1948 Olympics registered the most nations and athletes in Olympic history,with 59 nations and 4,099 athletes. Athletes were housed in the Royal Air Forcebarracks just outside of town or in school buildings in Richmond Park. WembleyStadium was the site for most swimming and track and field events.
The famous event of the 1908 Olympics seemed to be re-enacted during theseGames. In 1908, Italy's Dorando Pietri had entered the stadium to complete thefinal leg of the marathon. Pietri collapsed several times as American JohnHaynes continued to close the gap. However, British officials, with a sharphatred for Americans, led Pietri across the finish line.
Similarly, Belgium's Etienne Gailly stumbled into Wembley to complete themarathon and was wobbling badly before collapsing as Argentina's Delfa Cabreramoved passed him to capture the gold. Great Britain's Thomas Richards tookSilver, but Gailly finally was able to regain his composure enough finishthird.
Czech Emile Zatopoek would begin his string of Olympiad medals with a gold inthe 10,000 meters and silver in the 5,000 meters. Zatopoek would replacelegendary Paavo Nurmi as a folk hero, becoming a star in the next threeOlympids.
Fanny Blankers-Koen, a mother of four from the Netherlands, became the firstwoman superstar of the Olympics by capturing four gold medals, in the 100 and200-meter sprints, the 80-meter hurdles and the 4 x 100 meter relay. Lost inthe stardom of Blankers-Koen was Micheline Ostermeyer of France, who captureda pair of gold medals in the discuss and shot put and a bronze in the highjump.
Probably the best finish came in the 100-meter sprint, in which AmericanHarrison Dillard won the gold medal. Dillard, who had been the world recordholder in the 110-meter hurdles, hit the lead hurdle and failed to make theU.S. team in that event at the qualifiers. Listed as just the third qualifierfor the event, he narrowly edged out teammate Norwood 'Barney" Ewell in a photofinish for the gold. Dillard could have won a second gold medal had the 4 x 100U.S. relay team not been disqualified for improper passing of the baton outsidethe legal limit. Great Britain, who was the second-place winner, was given thegold and unlike 1908, where there was bitter hatred and outrage directedtowards American, the Brits sat silence as the disqualification was announced.
Seventeen-year old Bob Mathias gained great notoriety by winning thedecathalon, enduring a rigorous 12-hour, rain-marred final day, in a daydominated by pouring rains.
Britain was won just three gold medals during the Games and finished just 12thoverall in medal count, the worst showing by a host country in the modernOlympics.
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|Site: Helsinki, Finland|
Dates: July 19 - August 3
Total Athletes: 4,925
Two things stood out during the XVth Olympiad, hosted by Finland. It would bethe first-ever appearance by the Soviet Union, a presence that would be feltfor many years thereafter. Second, the Finns displayed a remarkable amount ofhospitality to visiting diplomats, guests and athletes.
Eric von Frenkell, mayor of Helsinki, became the head of the organizingcommittee and tried to downsize the number of events in the Olympics. He foundout quickly that most Olympic committees were looking for ways to bolster thenumber of sports for their programs. Being under the arm of the Soviet Union,Finland pressured the IOC for approving admission of the USSR to the Games.
The Finns also did not retreat from controversy by naming national hero PaavoNurmi, banned by the IOC for outdated amateur regulations in 1932, to be thefinal torchbearer in the opening ceremony.
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|Site: Melbourne, Australia|
Dates: November 22 - December 8
Nations: 67 Nations
Total Athletes: 3,342
For the first time in Olympic history, the Games went "down under" toMelbourne, Australia, which edged out Buenos Aires, Argentina by just one vote.It was not received well and even new IOC president Avery Brundage felt it wasa big mistake.
The Games wouldpresent organization and financial difficulties because of the location anddistance. The Australian bid committed had failed to inform the IOC of theirgovernment's unwillingness to bend stringent equine quarantine rules. As aresult, the IOC was forced to separate the equestrian events to Stockholm,Sweden.
The timeliness of the Games could not be worse for the Aussies. Leading up tothe opening ceremonies, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon sent in their cancellationnotices if Israel, which had taken over the Suez Canal, participated. Spain,Holland and Switzerland sent in their notices in protest of the Soviet Union'sinvasion of Hungary. Ironically, both the Soviet Union and Holland sent fullteams. If that wasn't bad enough, the Republic of China indicated they werebacking out because of the IOC's recognition of Taiwan.
The IOC received a black eye of sorts when a brawl broke out between Russia andHungary during a water polo match. The Hungarians won the match 4-0 andultimately the gold medal. The Swiss official terminated the match prematurely,calling it a "boxing match under water." The majority of the spectators wereheavily in favor of Hungary and as a result the Australian riot police had toescort the Russians from the pool.
The Games also marked several "firsts" for some countries:Norway captured its first gold medal in track and field as Egil Danielson wonthe javelin toss in a world-record throw. Iceland garnered its first Olympicmedal on the back of Vilhjalmur Einarsson's silver medal in the triple jump.
Other heroes of the Games were American Al Oerter, who would emerge from theGames with the first of four consecutive gold medals in the discus. U.S.sprinter Bobby Mitchell captured gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 relay,while Aussie Betty Cuthbert took the gold in the same events. Soviet long-distance runner Vladimir Kuts won the 5,000 and 10,000-meter double, while U.S.swimmer Pat McCormick captured the double gold in platform and springboard.
Hungarians were the obvious underdogs and certainly the sentimental favoritesof the spectators. The elder statesman and Olympic Boxing champion Laszlo Pappwon his third career gold medal with a middleweight victory over Jose Torres ofthe United States. The feat was even more impressive when a short time later,Torres went on to become the light heavyweight champion of the world.
However, the biggest upset of the Games came in the marathon when 36-year oldCzech Alain Mimoun, a silver winner in both the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, finallygot his gold, besting his personal nemesis Emil Zatopek. Mimoun was relegatedto second-place finishes behind folk hero Zatopek. How ironic it was to haveMimoun greet a cramped up Zatopek.
The hosts did not fare too well throughout much of the Games. The Aussies, whorelished their opportunities in the water, saved swimming for the final events.They captured 14 total medals, eight gold, four silver and two bronze, bestingall other nations. Dawn Fraser led the Aussie contingent by setting the worldrecord in the 100-meter freestyle final.
The best side story of the Olympics was the romantic relationship between U.S.hammer thrower Harold Connolly and Czech discus thrower Olga Fikotova. The twomet on the practice field, won gold medals in their respective sports, marriedand moved to California.
It would also be the first time in Olympic history that athletes would enterthe stadium for closing ceremonies in a cluster with athletes mingling with oneanother rather than the tradition of entering under the country flag. A 17-year-old Taiwanese athlete, who thought the display would show a wave of unity,presented the idea.
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|Site: Rome, Italy|
Dates: August 25 - September 11
Total Athletes: 5,348
This would be the Olympiad that would give birth to ultimately the world's mostbeloved, most controversial and most recognized athlete, Cassius Clay, later totake the name Muhammad Ali. The 18-year old Ali dominated the boxing arena likeno one ever has or most likely, ever will again. He easily took out 25-year-old, three-time gold medal champion Zvigniew Pietrzkowski of Poland.
Clay's personality dominated the Games with his colorful poetry andcontroversial speeches about the United States.
It was a disappointing performance for the American track and field team. RayNorton, the world record holder at 200 meters and a clear cut favorite to winboth the 100 and 200-meter races, finished a disappointing sixth respectively.Norton was also a member of the 4 x 100 relay team that was disqualified for anillegal baton exchange. The Americans did get a gold medal in the 400-meterhurdles when Otis Davis accomplished the feat in a world record time of 44.9seconds.
Wilma Rudolph received international recognition for her heroic performance inthe Games. Rudolph, who had been a polio victim in her childhood years,rebounded to win three gold medals in track and field.
More nations won gold medals in track and field than in any other Olympics.Peter Snell and Murray Halberg of New Zealand won the 800 and 5,000 metersrespectively, Herb Elliott of Australia won the 1,500 meters, Armin Hary ofGermany captured the 100 meters, while Italy's Livio Berruti became the firstnon-North American to win the 200 meters in Olympic history. Soviet Union'sPyotr Bolotnikov won the gold in the 10,000 meters, Zdislaw Kryszkowiak ofPoland took the steeplechase, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first Africanto win an Olympic gold medal, dosing so in bare feet.
Led by future NBA All-Stars and future Hall of Famers in Oscar Robertson, JerryLucas and Jerry West, American dominated the basketball events, outscoringtheir opponents by 43 points, 102-59.
The most interesting of all events was in the decathlon, which pitted friendagainst friend, American Rafer Johnson versus C.K. Yang of Taiwan. The pair wascollege teammates and best friends. They battled each other right to the end,where on the final event of the competition (1,500 meter run), a mere 67 pointsseparated the two. With Johnson holding the lead, Yang new he would have tobeat his friend by at least 10 seconds to win the first ever gold for hishomeland. While Yang won the race (4:48 against 4:49), Johnson walked away withthe gold.
Italians enjoyed their best ever Olympics, capturing 36 total medals, including13 gold. Only the United States (71 total medals, 34 gold) and the Soviet Union(103 total medals, 43 gold) enjoyed better success. The hosts had tremendoussuccess in most of the cycling events and sent six boxers to the finals formedals. Giovanni Benvenuti earned the gold in the welterweight division whileteammate Franco De Piccoli earned a gold in the heavyweight division.
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|Site: Tokyo, Japan|
Dates: October 10-24
Total Athletes: 5,140
Japan, which had been awarded the 1940 Olympics, but were forced to withdrawbecause of the Sino Japanese, brought the Olympics to Asia for the first timein 1964. Japan spent nearly $3 billion in city preparation, while a record $60billion was budgeted for the Games overall.
Emperor Hirohito had designated 19-year old Yoshinori Sakaki, a resident ofHiroshima, as the person to light the Olympic torch. Sakaki had been born just40 miles and just two hours after the bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, whichultimately ended World War II.
Japan proved to be the perfect hosts and the Games were free of protests,boycotts and controversy.
These were the Games that spotlighted athletes like Australian swimmer DawnFraser, U.S. boxer Joe Frazier, U.S. sprinter Bob Hayes and Ethiopian marathonrunner Abebe Bikilia. All of these athletes had to overcome insurmountable oddsnot only to appear, but also win gold medals in their respective events.
Many were shocked that Fraser even participated in the Games. Seven monthsearlier, Fraser had been involved in a car accident that took the life of hermother. In addition, Fraser had been in a neck brace for six weeks followingthe accident, thus limiting her training regimen. However, Fraser rebounded towin her third consecutive gold in the 100 meters.
Frazier, who would gain prominence in later years in his battles with 1960Olympic champion Cassius Clay, had suffered a devastating defeat at the handsof Buster Mathis in the U.S. trials and only went to Tokyo as Mathis' sparringpartner. When Mathis broke his index finger during a sparring session, Fraziertook his place. Frazier would ultimately break his own finger in the semifinalsagainst a Russian opponent, but refused x-rays. He was determined to fight forthe gold, which he ultimately won. Frazier would be the heavyweight champion ofthe world just six years later.
Hayes suffered a leg injury just four months before the Games and left him in doubt for Japan. However, not only did he answer the question, but left an exclamation mark by tying the world record of 10 seconds flat in the 100 meters. He also ran an incredible 8.6 seconds in the anchor leg of the 4 x 100 meter relay and made up a three-meter deficit to lift the U.S. team to the gold medal in a world record time of 39 seconds flat. Hayes would go onto fame with as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.
Bikila, the barefoot winner of the Rome four years earlier, had to have anemergency appendectomy just 40 days prior to the Games. No one thought he wouldenter the Games, let alone establish a world record time of 2:12:11 and becomethe first back-to-back marathon champion in Olympic history.
One of the most incredible stories of these Games was that of the Japaneseathletic organization, which gave its team a chance to win a gold in women'svolleyball. Ten of the 12 members of the team had worked for the same companyin Japan and practiced religiously for this opportunity six hours a day, sevendays a week, 51 weeks a year under their coach Hirofumi Daimatsu. However, whenNorth Korea's Olympic team was banned from the Olympics by the IOC forparticipating in non-sanctioned games in Indonesia the year before, this leftthe Olympic tournament with just five teams, one less than the minimum requiredby the Olympic charter. In a last ditch effort to preserve its team a chancefor a medal after all its perseverance, Japan sent one million yen to SouthKorea to cover its expenses for fielding and outfitting a women's team andsending it to Tokyo. While South Korea did not win a single game, Japan breezedto the gold, ousting the Soviet Union in the championship game.
Judo made its debut in these Games. Japan naturally did well in this event,capturing numerous gold medals. There was one stirring upset in the unlimitedclass, Judo's most glamorous division, when 6-foot-6 Dutch giant Anton Geesinkstunned the home crowd by defeating Japanese champion Akio Kaminaga.
Japan proved that bygones can be bygones and did a brilliant job in hosting thelargest Olympiad in history. Ninety-three countries and some 5,000 plusathletes attended the games. Japan placed fourth in overall medal count behindthe USSR, USA and the last combined East and West German team. Eleven worldrecords were established during the tournament.
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|Dates: October 12-27|
Total Athletes: 5,531
The Games of Mexico City would come during some of the most politicallyvolatile times in the history of the world. Unrest was rampant around theworld. It was also at that time when leaders like Robert Kennedy and MartinLuther King were assassinated, the U.S. was involved in the highlycontroversial Vietnam War and in the home of the Games, and there were protestsover the poverty in Mexico.
Thousands of students organized protests about the funds being used for theOlympics rather than the poverty that was running rampant throughout Mexico.The Mexican army clashed with more than 10,000 demonstrators on October 2,1968, just 10 days prior to the start of the Games in downtown Mexico City,killing 260 people and injuring another 1,200.
Another controversial element of these Games was the altitude of Mexico City(7,347 feet), the highest in Olympic history. Many countries complained aboutunfair advantages and even requested the site be changed.
The thin air did seem to contribute to the high number of world recordseclipsed during these Games. Twenty-six of the 30 scheduled track and fieldevents recorded either Olympic or World records. Virtually all races of 1,500meters or less in both the men and women established new records.
Bob Beamon was one of the greatest beneficiaries of the thin air, shatteringthe world record jump of Ralph Boston by nearly two feet with a jump of 29-21/2 feet. Dick Fosbury captured an Olympic world record in the high jump (7feet, 4 1/2 inches).
The U.S. completely dominated the swimming pool. Americans took 58 of 102possible medals, including 23 gold medals.
This would be the Games that would launch the career of another great Americanboxer, George Foreman, a future heavyweight champion. Foreman would gainrespect by carrying an American flag around the ring after winning the goldmedal, a direct response to what had gone on earlier in the Games by otherblack athletes.
Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos will long be remembered not for theirfeat on the track, in which they the gold and silver in the 200-meter final,but rather their total lack of respect for their country they displayed on themedal stand. Smith and Carlos used their medal appearance as a platform forwhat they believed to be black oppression and the civil rights injusticesagainst blacks in the U.S. During the ceremony, the duo mounted the stand withtheir warmup pants rolled to their knees, wearing black socks and wore civilrights buttons. During the playing of the national anthem, the pair bowed theirheads and raised their fists to the sky.
This performance was extended to the 4 x 100 meter relay team, who captured thegold medal for the Americans in world record time. Vince Matthews, RonaldFreeman, Larry James and Lee Evans also took the stand and raised their fistsduring the playing of the national anthem.
Aside from that, there were also some incredible performances turned in byother athletes. Twenty-three-year-old American Wyomia Tyus. Tyus defeated fourother one-time world record holders in the world record time of 11.0 seconds tobecome the first person in history to win two straight Olympic sprint titles.
Al Oerter, who had won his first discus gold medal in 1956 as a 20-year old inMelbourne, captured his fourth and final gold during these Games.
African runners would dominate all track events over 1,500 meters due to thetraining they undertake in the high altitudes of Africa. Africa's Kip KeinoKipchoge recorded the largest margin of victory (20 meters) in addition toestablishing a world record in the 1,500 meters. The only exception was the5,000-meter, which went to Tunisia's Mohammed Gammoudi, who had trained allsummer in the French Alps.
Mexico City, in many ways, would shape future Olympics in the introduction ofgender and drug testing, the incredible growth in sports medicine ignited byaltitude training, the under-the-table payments made to athletes by shoecompanies, and the incredible display by African runners.
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|Dates: August 26 - September 11, 1972|
Total Athletes: 7,830
While there were some incredible individual and team achievements during theMunich Games, it would always be a footnote into what will long be rememberedas the most tragic and most historic Games in history.
For the first time in history, it was not the athletes or their performancesthat would take centerstage. Rather, it was the infiltration of eightPalistinian terrorists, who called themselves the Black September Terrorists,that would break into the Olympic Village and forever reshape Olympic history.
At 4:25 A.M. on September 5, 1972, these eight terrorists broke into theVillage, taking nine Israeli athletes hostage. Little did they know, that theywould also hold the rest of the world hostage as people all throughout theworld, were riveted to their televisions to track the dramatic events that hadoccurred at the Games.
Less than 23 hours later, it would be all over. While trying to board anairplane in an attempt to escape Germany, a shootout would take place betweenarmy sharpshooters and the terrorists. In the end, eleven Israeli athleteswould be killed, as well as five of the Palistinians and one policeman. Theultimate nightmare had occurred.
This was supposed to be renewed chance for Germany to make good after what hadtranspired during the 1936 Olympics at the start of Adolph Hitler's reign.
The Games started well enough before 80,000 enthusiastic spectators in OlympicStadium, built especially for the Olympic Games. Munich had invested some $600million into the Olympic effort, more than 10 times that of Tokyo eight yearsearlier.
The 122 nations and 7,830 athletes once again established an Olympic record. Itwas unfortunate that the events that would take place 10 days later, wouldtarnish the incredible performances of some of the following athletes: Russiangymnast Olga Korbut, U.S. marathon winner Frank Shorter, Soviet Union'ssplendid sprinter Valeri Borzov, U.S. runner Dave Wottle, Finnish runner LasseViren, Cuban boxer Teofila Stevenson and U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz.
IOC president Avery Brundage made a controversial but in the end a very wisedecision to continue the Games. To end them as many would have liked, couldhave and would have given in to the whim of terrorists, who had intended todestroy the commraderie of the Games. If nothing else, athletes came togetherlike never before.
The darling of the Games was Korbut, the cute and bubbly princess ofgymnastics. Her remarkable performances in floor exercises, would spark aworldwide attraction to her sport.
Shorter, the Yale graduate, would run for underdogs worldwide and win themarathon. Borzov, christened "the world's fastest human" would dominate thesprint events, while 16-year old Ulrike Meyfarth, would capture the interestsof her homeland by winning the gold with a world-record high jump of six feet,3 1/2 inches, just a half inch below her own height.
Wottle would gain notoriety by combining his honeymoon with his Olympicperformance by capturing the gold in the 800 meters. Wottle's wore histrademark golf hat during the performance.
Viren picked up the banner of his former countrymen, Paavo Numi, Vitola andKolehmainen by becoming only the fourth Olympian in history to win the 5,000and 10,000-kilometer races in the same Games. Viren won the 10,000 meter inworld record time, despite slipping early in the race, and raced and won a heatfor the 5,000 and the final as well to walk off with the gold.
An argument could be made that 20-year old Teofilo Stevenson, the mammoth 6-foot-3 1/2 boxer from Cuba, could be the greatest boxer in Olympic history.Stevenson, who never wavered in his decision to turn pro, fought 12 Olympicbouts, and became the first Olympian boxer to win three gold medals in a singleweight class. Most boxers turn pro immediately after their Olympic experience.
Stevenson made his Olympic career debut in '72 and methodically made his waythrough each opponent. He disposed of Polish boxer Ludwik Denderys in just oneround, got past American Duane Bobick, who had beaten Stevenson in thesemifinals of the Pan American Games a year earlier, in the third round.Stevenson capped off his performance with a knockout of Germany's Peter Hussingin four minutes and three seconds of his gold medal winning bout.
No analysis of the '72 Games could be official without the name of Mark Spitz.Spitz, who had earned a pair of gold medals, albeit on relay teams in Mexico,was ready to generate noise in what would be a historic setting performance.
Spitz got off to a quick start by capturing the gold in his strongest event,the 200-meter butterfuly in a world-record time of 2:00.70. Spitz had finishedlast in this event in the '68 Olympics in Mexico City.
An hour later, Spitz would capture his second gold in the 4 x 100 meterfreestyle relay in world record time. The brash 22-year old would go on to wingold in the 200 meter freestyle, the 100 meter butterfly, the 4x200-meterfreestyle relay, the 100 meter freestyle and the 4x100-meter medley relay.
He shattered the record of most gold medals in one Olympics, previously held byItalian fencer Nedo Nadi, who earned five in 1920.
One of the biggest atrocities of the Games came in men's basketball. Basketballofficials gave the Russians three separate attempts to win the game in thefinal seconds of a hotly contested gold medal match. A controversial rulesinterpretation allowed Russia the chance to win the game and the gold medalwith a 50-49 victory. American were so enraged by the officials, they would notaccept their silver medals.
Other problems ensued. The Pakistan field hockey team, was so enraged withofficials decisions during their finals match with Germany, they stormed thejudges table following their match and poured water over the heads of thejudges. They then took the victory stand and refused to stand at attendionduring the playing of the German national anthem. So enraged was the IOC, thatall 11 members received lifetime bans from the Olympics.
They were not alone as American sprinters Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett werebanned from future Olympics for talking with one another on the medals standduring the playing of their countries' national anthem.
The only teams to leave the Olympics following the massacre were Norway and theNetherlands. Spitz, an American Jew, who won his seventh gold medal onSeptember 4, found out about the hostage taking during a press conference thenext morning and abruptly left the news conference and Germany for good,thinking that he would have been a likely target.
This would be the final Olympics for IOC president Avery Brundage.
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|Dates: July 17 - August 1, 1976|
Total Athletes: 6,189
Following the black cloud of the XXth Olympiad in Munich, Montreal was adamantabout putting on Games that would revive the Olympic message of unity andpeace.Canadians, who were promised that the cost of hosting the Olympics would notcost a dime, were stunned by the news that Montreal had spent a whopping $1.2billion on its Games. Two of the largest expenditures was incurred by security,which cost nearly $100 million and the $650 million spent to build OlympicStadium.
To make matters worse, 24 nations pulled out of the Olympics just 48 hoursprior to the start of the Games. These countries had pulled out in protest ofthe inclusion of New Zealand, who had sent a rugby team on tour of South Africathe year before which was a violation of the international sports ban againstSouth Africa for its racial discriminatory apartheid policies.
If that wasn't enough, the Taiwanese team (Republic of China) was denied entryinto Canada because the Canadian government did not recognize the Taiwanesegovernment.
However, like most Olympics that had weathered war, disorganization, terroristattack, economic poverty, racial statements and more, it would be the athletesthat would save the day. The XXIst Olympiad would be no different.
Four years earlier, a young Russian gymnast Olga Korbut excited spectators andfans alike and virtually put gymnastics on the map. Korbut would beovershadowed by the new phenom, a 14-year old Romanian gymnast named NadiaComaneci. She would overshadow all athletes in Montreal.
Comaneci recorded the first perfect score in Olympic history, a 10, in teamcompulsory competition on July 19, 1976. The next night, she would registerthree more perfect marks, two on the bars and another on the beam. Severalnights later in the individual apparatus competition, another two on the unevenbars and one more on the beam. In all, she scored seven perfect 10's en routeto three gold medals (all-around bars and beam), one silver medal (teamcompetition) and one bronze medal (floor exercise).
Almost overnight, Comaneci turned into a cash cow for Montreal officials, whoraised ticket prices to her events virtually overnight.
Other great performances permeated the XXIst Olympiad as well. American BruceJenner would become a household name with his performance in the decathalon. Heestablished a world record in capturing the decathalon.
Cuba's Alberto Juantorena became the first man in Olympic history to win boththe 800 and 1,500 meter, something that was duplicated on the women's side byRussian Tatyana Kazankina. Finland's Lasse Viren, who made a name for himselfin the Munich Games by capturing the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races, duplicatedhis achievement in the Montreal Games and became the first person in history toaccomplish the feat in back-to-back Olympics.
One could not forget Edwin Moses, who launched onto the world scene inMontreal, realizing a a world-record time of 47.64 in the hurdles, an event hewas introduced to the previous spring.
The U.S. men's swimming team totally dominated the pool. They won 12 out of 13gold medals and 10 of 11 silver medals. John Naber was the star of the pool,recording four gold medals. Great Britain's David Wilkie avoided an Americansweep by capturing the only other gold and silver in pool events.
The East German women also dominated the pool, winning 10 out of 12 goldmedals, four of which came from 18-year old Kornelia Ender.
Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, who launched his Olympic career four yearsearlier with a gold medal performance in Munich, duplicated the feat again,blowing past opponents in just seven minutes and 22 seconds total.
This was also the coming out party for another outgoing and very popular boxer,Sugar Ray Leonard and Leon Spinks both of whom who would go on to become goldmedal and eventually world champions in their respective divisions.
Sweden's Anders Garderud and Hungary's Miklos Nemeth established world recordsin the steeplechase and javelin respectively.
This would be the first Olympics for new IOC president Lord Killanin ofIreland. While the overall appeal, friendship and cooperation was realized byparticipating countries, it proved to be a fiscal disaster for Montreal for itsmassive cost overruns direct public debt for infrastructure and venue building.
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|Dates: July 19- August 13 1980|
Total Athletes: 5,512
The Soviet Union outbid Los Angeles to host the 1980 Games and the XXII ofmodern times. It was an unusual decision as it was the height of the cold warbetween the two super powers. The IOC rewarded the Soviet Union for itscommitment and its status in sports dominance.
However, the IOC could not predict what was to occur on December 27, 1979 whenthe Russians sent a massive military force into Afghanistan in support of theKarmal coup d'etat. While various nations denounced the action, there was nooutward reaction by the Western powers.
However, on January 20, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced if the Russianswere not out of Afghanistan in one month, he would not send a U.S. delegationto Moscow for the Summer Games. He urged other free nations to do likewise.Sixty one did just that, while others allowed their athletes to make up theirown minds. From here on, the Games would take a highly political tone ratherthan a celebration of sport.
As a result, it was the lowest amount of participating nations since theHelsinki Games of 1952.
Americans were severely critical of the president, thinking they were beingused as pawns in a political game between the U.S. and Russia.
With some of the largest countries withdrawing and others sending partialdelegations, the Russians flexed their muscle and dominated the medal count.Word got out that the competition was being tilted heavily in favor of Russianathletes.One of the greatest examples of this was in the men's triple jump. Heading intothe final round of competition, four athletes were beginning to rise to the topof the field, two Soviets Jaak Uudmae and Viktor Saneyev, winner of the lastthree Olympic triple jump gold medals, and a pair of Westerners, Joao Carlos deOliveira of Brazil and Ian Campbell of Australia.
Oliveira and Campbell were frustrated as jump after jump, Russian officialswould red flag them, indicating a foul. As the men began to argue, theofficials would already begin raking away the mark, making any argument of thefoul moot. On Oliveira's fourth jump, it looked as though he had surpassedSaneyev's 12-year-old-world record of 17.39 meters, only to be flagged onceagain.
All in all, the westerners were flagged in nine of their 12 jumps. As aresult, Uudmae captured the gold, Sanevey the silver and Oliveira the bronze.Campbell finished fifth.
The highlight of the Olympics was in the 800 and 1,500 meter races featuringGreat Britain's two finest runners, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett. The two hadbeen rivals for years, breaking each others records but not against each other.The two severely disliked one another.
In the much anticipated 800 meter race, Ovett made his move and took the leadin the final turn of the race. Meanwhile, Coe, who was hovering in the fourthposition, was doing all he could to move ahead. He finally passed Brazil'sAgberto Guimaraes and finally Russia's Nikolai Kirov, but because he made hismove so late, could not catch Ovett, who won with a time of 1:45.4, a halfsecond ahead of Coe.
This set the stage for an even more intriguing battle between the two in the1,500 meter race. The trio of Ovett, Coe and East Germany's Jurgen Straub madeit a three-man battle. In the final lap of the race, Coe made his move on theEast German and took the lead. Ovett, who had been running right on Coe'sshoulder, kept pace, until Coe used a final push to win the race in 1:48.5, .4ahead of Straub and .6 ahead of Ovett. Coe had managed to cover the final 800meters in 1:48.5 and the final 400 meters in 52.1.
The Soviets won 195 of the 630 total medals, and 80 of the 127 golds. EastGermany would finish second, winning 126 total medals and 47 gold. Theremaining seven Soviet bloc nations totaled 321 medals and 161 gold medals. Theremaining participating nations were able to win only 136 total medals and 49gold.
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|Dates: July 28- August 12 1984|
Total Athletes: 7,078
As Los Angeles was preparing for the 1984 Games, it was becoming exhaustinglyclear that hosting the Olympic Games could be a draining effect on the hostcity. One need to look no further than the racial protests during the 1968Mexico City, the horrible tragedy of the '72 Munich Games, the record debts andAfrican boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games, the absence of more than half ofthe world's IOC recognized countries in Moscow during the 1980 Games, it wasclear that something had to be done.
Peter Uerberoth, put in charge of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee,would forever change the business principles for future Olympics. Ueberrothintroduced corporate style business principles throughout his entireorganization. He was able to raise an incredible $150 million in corporatesponsorships, $286.8 million in television rights and another $150 million intickete sales. It would later be disclosed that the LAOOC would declare aprofit of $215 million, an amount that would not be lost on new IOC presidentJuan Antonio Samaranch, who would use those same principles in obtaining theindependent marketing rights for 153 National Olympic Committees by the 1988Seoul Games. By then, Samaranch had a Swiss-based ISL marketing company tosecure the financial security of the organization.
LA would become only the third city to host a second Olympiad. Paris (1900,1924) and London (1908, 1948) were the other two.
Just as Russia had dominated the 1980 Olympics due to the Western boycott, theUnited States dominated the '84 games just as easily when the Soviet Union and13 other Soviet bloc nations boycotted the American Games.
Los Angeles hosted a record 140 nations and 7,078 athletes and it went off inincredible fashion.
Great Britain's Sebastian Coe capped off his Olympic career with a victory inthe 1,500 meter, just as he had done four years earlier.
However, it would be the Americans that would take center stage.
Of the 514 medals handed out, more than a third (174) went to Americanathletes. The U.S. walked off with 83 of a possible 223 gold medals.
Carl Lewis launched what would become a spectacular Olympic career in LosAngeles, becoming the first man to win four gold track and field medals sinceJesse Owens in 1936. Lewis took the 100 and 200 meter sprints, the long jumpand anchored the 4 x 100 meter relay team.
This would also be the coming out party for a female gymnast Mary Lou Retton,who would win America's first Olympic women's individual gymnastics medal. Thiswould be the first Olympiad in which an American male would garner a gold inindividual gymnastics, as Peter Vidmar accomplished the feat.
Valerie Brisco Hooks became the first woman to win the 200 and 400 meters,while Joan Benoit of the U.S. was the first-ever winner of the women'smarathon.
The boxing team was relentless, winning nine of 12 gold medals. That didn'tinclude Evander Holyfield's disqualification for a late knockout punch.Holyfield had to settle for a bronze medal.
Much like the boxing team, the swimming team captured 21 of 34 gold medals.Michael Jordan and Cheryl Miller led the men and women's basketball ball teamsto easy gold medal victories.
The shape of the Olympics would never be the same after the success of the LAGames.
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|Dates: September 17 - October 2, 1988|
Total Athletes: 9,421
For the first time in 16 years, the Seoul Games had a full delegation ofnations, not one boycott. Ironically, the Games went off without politicalstatements or protests.
The South Korean budget governement made complete use of its 3.1 billion dollarbudget, having a security force of some 120,000, and building 11 new specialtyareans for a record 160 participating nations, 38 more than ever before.
No one athlete dominated these Olympic Games, although many tried. Canada's BenJohnson set the Olympic Village ablaze by lowering the world record in the 100-meter dash from 9.83 to 9.79. To many, this was virtually impossible. As itwould turn out, the IOC disclosed that a urine sample taken from Johnsondiscovered performance-enhancing steroids. Johnson was dismissed from the gamesas well as international competition for the next two years.
Florence Griffith Joyner captured the eye of many with her incredible, three-gold, one silver performance in track and field. Flo-Jo, as she was commonlynicknamed, won the 100-meter final in 10.54, the 200-meter in a world recordtime of 21.34 and anchored the 4 x 100 meter relay team.
Flo-Jo's sister-in-law, Jackie Joyner Kersee, won gold in the heptathlon andlong jump.
On the men's side, Carl Lewis continued his dominance, capturing two more gold(Johnson's 100 title and the long jump)
Kenyan runners stole the show in events 3,000 meters and higher, taking sevenmedals; three gold, two silvers and one bronze.
In swimming, Kristin Otto stole the show, winning six gold medals for EastGermany, America's Matt Biondi captured five gold and a silver and bronze each,Janet Evans Ttook three gold (400 and 800 meter freestyle, 400 meter individual medley),while Greg Louganis captured the gold in springboard and platform.
Soviet gymnasts Vladimir Artenov and Elena Shoushounova captured four goldeach. While Mary Lou Retton became the first American woman to receive a goldin gymnastics in the '84 Olympics in LA. It was against a shortened andboycotted field. In '88, Phoebe Mills becamse the first female gymnast to win amedal in a full-field Olympics for the U.S.
Americans felt cheated when judges awarded the gold medal to Korean Park Si-hunover Roy Jones. Jones lost the gold medal match in a stunning 3-2 decision.
This would be the final Olympic appearance for East Germany, which wouldabsorbed into a united Germany four years later in Barcelona.
The Soviets once again, dominated the medal race, winning 55 gold medals and132 overall, East Germany placed second with 37 gold and 102 overall. The U.S.finished with 36 gold and 94 overall.
The hosts wound up sixth in the overall medal count with 33 overall and 12gold. The Koreans dominated table tennis (a new event for the '88 Games),archery and team handball, and had bragging rights over their Asian brothers,China and Japan, which registered 28 and 14 respectively.
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|Dates: July 25 - August 9, 1992|
Total Athletes: 10,563
As is usually the case, the awarding of the Olympic Games is a stimulant to therevitalization of that city. Never was that more apparent than in Barcelona,which, behind an $8 billion reconstruction effort, revived its beautifulbeaches on the Mediterranean Sea, built new luxurious hotels and rebuilt roadsand the entire infrastructure of the city.
Barecelona was host to the largest contingent of nations (172) and athletes(10,563) in history. Most of these nations were making their first-everappearance.
The XV Olympiad would long be remembered for the emergence of professionals inthe Olympics. The "Dream Team" consisting of the richest and most talentedathletes in the world, dominated basketball by outscoring their opponents by anaverage of 44 points per game. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson,Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson,Chris Mullin, Clyded Drexler, John Stockton, and Christian Laettner (the lonecollege representative) formed the greatest team the sport would ever see.
The premise of using professionals was stimulated by the loss of the Americansat the hands of the Soviets four years earlier in Seoul. Some actually thoughtthe Soviets were making headway into a sport created in the United States. TheU.S.A won all eight of its games, averaging 117.3 points per game. The closestany country would get to the United States was Croatia, which lost by a narrow32 points.
The only sour element for the United States would be that they would nevertruly be able to avenge the loss at the hands of the Soviets four yearsearlier. The Soviet Union had disbanded into many different countries and whilethe majority of the '88 Soviet squad was part of the Lithuanian team, it wouldnot be true revenge.
The Barcelona Games would be the first with four official languages, theunification of Germany for the first time in 40 years, and the emergence ofseparate republics grown out of the downfall of the Soviet Union. It would alsomark the first appearance by South Africa in 32 years, while Cuba and NorthKorea returned to the Games after a 12-year hiatus.
The most highly directed athlete of the XXV Olympiad was Russian gymnast VitalyScherbo, who walked away with six gold medals.
Americans, as usual, would dominate track and field, thanks in part to CarlLewis, who captured a pair of golds in the long jump and the 4 x 100 meterrelays.
While Americans were dominating on the track, Cuba was doing likewise inboxing, winning seven of 12 possible gold and 14 overall, while China capturedthe first Olympic baseball gold medal and earned 16 overall.
Another winner at the Games, was Spain, who recorded 13 gold medals, aftersecuring just four in the first 96 years of the Games.
The Unified Team would win the overall medal race with 122 total, versus 108for the United States.
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|Site: Atlanta, Georgia|
Dates: July 20 - August 4
Total Athletes: 15,500
The Summer Olympics returned to the United States for first time since the '1994 Games in Los Angeles and just the second time in the last 64 years. A reocrd 197 nations competed and over 11,000 athletes represented the United States.
However, the 16th Summer Olympiad will best be remembered for what happened outside of the events. The city of Atlanta and the rest of the Olympic community were rocked in the early hours of July 27th. An apparent pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park, killing one woman and injuring 111. The pipe bomb was filled with screws and nails.
"The spirit of the Olympic movement mandates that we continue," said Billy Payne, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. President Bill Clinton concurred. "We cannot let terror win."
The Games went on and in grand fashion.
It was the best kept secret in town, as to who would be the final torch bearer to light the Olympic flame. Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the world's best-known athletes, appeared at the top of structure, took the torch from another great US Olympian, Janet Evans, and ignited the flame to begin the Games.
The United States won the most medals with 101, including 44 gold. Track and Field sensation Michael Johnson backed up his talk of a 200-400 double with gold medal performances. Carl Lewis added to his personal glory with a gold medal in the long jump. It was Lewis' 9th career gold medal. In a bit of stunner, the American men lost in the 4x100 relay to Canada. The USA Women's squad collected both gold medals in their relay event.
Team Competition produced many great performances. Gold Medals went to the Men's Basketball squad, whiile the women picked up gold in basketball, softball, and soccer. Cuba won Olympic Gold in Baseball, but the Americans turned in a gutsy tournament and finished with the respectable Bronze Medal. Nigeria was the upset winner in Men's Soccer, with the heavily-favored Brazil taking home the Bronze Medal.
Individually, American Swimmers Amy Van Dyken took home four golds, while Josh Davis was a perfect 3-for-3 in his races. On the international side, Russian Gymnast Alexei Nemov was the big winner with six medals (2-1-3). Canadian Donovan Bailey took home the title as the World's Fastest Human in a record time of 9.84 seconds.
Hometown favorite Cathy Freeman, a native Australian and a proud Aborigine, brought the Stadium crowd to its feet with a second-place finish in the 400 meters.
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|Site: Sydney, Australia|
Dates: September 15 - October 1
Total Athletes: 11,116
Australia hosted the 27th Olympiad with class and style, as the Olympic Stadium was filled with more than 100,000 fans each night of the track and field competition.
The Summer Games in Sydney featured several unexpected dramatics. U.S. Greco- Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner won the gold medal by defeating Russian Alexandre Kareline, who was unbeaten for 13 years and didn't allow a point for ten. Gardner's peers elected him to serve as U.S. flagbearer for the closing ceremonies. The American softball team rallied for gold medal after losing a 112-game winning streak and dropping three straight in the tournament. The U.S. men's basketball team was almost beaten, squeaking past Lithuania 85-83 in the semifinals.
The U.S. track and field team again demonstrated why they are the number-one ranked squad in the world. Team USA earned a total of 20 medals in track and field competition at the Sydney Olympic Games...eight more than the next-best nation, the Russian Federation with 12. Ethiopia was third in the medal tally with eight. Team USA�s 10 golds more than doubled the second-best totals of Poland and Ethiopia, which had four each. The Russian Federation won three golds. The American baseball team dethroned two-time defending gold medalists Cuba.
The games closed with Marion Jones getting her five medals, although they were not all gold (3 bronze).
It was an Olympics of many firsts, especially for women's competition. Taekwondo, trampoline and synchronized diving made their debuts in theOlympics. polo and women's weightlifting.
The 2000 Summer Games also featured domination in the pool by the United States. The Americans won 33 swimming medals, 14 of them gold, as Jenny Thompson led the charge. However, nobody will soon forget "The Thorpedo" Ian Thorpe of Australia, Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband both of the Netherlands. American Lenny Krayzelburg had three gold medals from three events.
However, the Summer Games were tainted by several allegations of doping and cheating. Five medals were taken away because of positive drug tests, including a gold medal by Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan. She took cold medicine prescribed by her doctor, but the medicine turned out to be banned. American shotputter CJ Hunter, the husband of Jones, had pulled out of the Games injured but tested positive for steroids.
It was an emotional time for many Australians as Cathy Freeman became the first Aborigine to win a gold medal at the Olympics, taking the 400-meter race in front of a raucous crowd of 112,000.
Another heart-warming moment came in the 100-meter freestyle swim event. Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea swam solo and got a standing ovation just for finishing the race.
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|Site: Beijing, China|
Dates: August 8-24
Total Athletes: 10,902
The closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on Sunday night ended 16 days of competition at a record-setting Games.
It featured a handoff to the 2012 London Olympics that included a quintessential red double-decker bus, trailed into the stadium by gold medal winners from Great Britain's track cycling team.
The bus converted to a stage, and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page performed the band's "Whole Lotta Love" with pop singer Leona Lewis. Soccer star David Beckham kicked a ball into a crowd of onlookers.
Later, world-famous tenor Placido Domingo had a duet with Chinese singer Song Zuying.
The ceremony -- about two hours long -- was far shorter and far lighter in tone than the lavish four-hour production that opened these Olympics on Aug. 8.
Fireworks ringed the upper part of the National Stadium at the beginning and end -- typical for a closing ceremony -- and thousands of performers moved in unison on the floor of the "Bird's Nest" in choreographed moves that echoed the well-received opening.
Athletes entered National Stadium together, not country by country like in the opening ceremony.
"Tonight we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever," said International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge. "Thank you to China, to all the wonderful volunteers and to BOCOG (the Beijing organizing committee).
"Through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the World."
London mayor Boris Johnson received the Olympic flag from Beijing mayor Go Jinlong, also typical of a closing ceremony. Both mayors waved the flag. But the ceremony lacked the international political presence of the opening, when U.S. president George W. Bush was among the heads of state in attendance.
The slow extinguishing of the Olympic flame ended a record-setting Olympics -- and the biggest in more ways than one.
A record 204 nations represented by at least one athlete. More women participated than in any other Olympics in history, including 48 percent of the United States team.
There were more than 130 Olympic records broken in Beijing, and 43 world records passed -- including seven by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps in the Water Cube pool and three by runner Usain Bolt in the Bird's Nest.
An Olympic-record 87 countries won at least one medal, including firsts for Afghanistan, Mauritius, Tajikistan and Togo. Bahrain, Mongolia and Panama won their first-ever gold medals, and India claimed its first individual gold.
The Games were popular around the world, especially with a formerly dwindling U.S. Olympic audience captivated by, among other things, Phelps' successful chase of the gold medal record for a single Games.
The Beijing Olympics were broadcast to more people in more regions than ever, the IOC said. It was the first Olympics to have global digital coverage.
There were positives in other areas, as well.
Rogge's prediction at the start of the Olympics that there would be between 30 and 40 positive doping cases in Beijing, there were just six cheaters caught during the Games.
Of course, almost 40 were nabbed before the Olympics started.
And it wasn't for lack of testing: Under a stringent new plan, the IOC had performed more than 4,600 urine and blood tests through the end of last week, up from the 3,500 performed in Athens four years ago. There were 26 positive tests at the 2004 Olympics.
Spectators turned out across the board. And although attendance didn't quite reach the sold-out status that had been reported before the Olympics started, the numbers more than tripled from the beginning of the Games to the end, the IOC said.
There were unfortunate sporting incidents, the last and perhaps most serious coming when a Cuban athlete kicked a taekwondo referee in the face following a disqualification on Saturday night. But there were also plenty of positive examples of Olympism, especially between teams from the warring countries of Russia and Georgia.
Of course, outside the spectrum of athletics there were real-world issues. Despite the promise of designated protests areas, every application for demonstration was either denied or withdrawn.
Unauthorized protests, especially concerning China's contentious relation with Tibet, were dealt with swiftly by authorities. Journalists caught in the middle were roughed up.
But the Games unfolded without any major security issues, something that was a concern leading up to them.
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