Since the Olympic Games reappeared in their modern form in 1896, the Olympic movement and the core values it personifies—excellence, friendship and respect—have been held as an example of all that is good and noble of the human spirit. Unfortunately, human nature has not always lived up to these lofty values. Although the Olympics have certainly given us plenty of magical moments, they have also had their fair share of disappointments, scandals and controversies.
5 Attack on Nancy Kerrigan
One of the most infamous “bad moments” in Olympic history, which has inspired several movies and documentaries, came in the rivalry between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, members of the USA Olympic Ice Skating Team. Kerrigan was a gold medal favorite for the Lillehammer, Norway, 1994 Winter Olympics. The rivalry between the two figure skaters was such that Harding’s ex-husband hired someone to break Kerrigan’s leg to eliminate the competition. Harding then tried to cover up the attack, was caught, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Amazingly, she was still allowed to compete at the Winter Olympics. Kerrigan recovered from her injuries in time to compete and win the silver medal. Harding, on the other hand, finished eighth.
4 Salt Lake City Scandal
The 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City was the setting for the worst bribery scandal in the history of the Olympic Games. The Salt Lake City Olympic organizing committee was found guilty of giving International Olympic Committee members and their relatives scholarships, expensive medical treatments, lavish gifts and outright cash bribes in exchange for selecting Salt Lake City as host of the Winter Games. Although the scheme was uncovered in 1998, Salt Lake City still hosted the 2002 Winter Games. Four members of the IOC resigned, six were expelled and nine received warnings.
3 Ben Johnson’s Doping Scandal
One of the biggest anticlimaxes in Olympic history was Ben Johnson’s gold medal in the 100-meter sprint of the 1988 games in Seoul. The icing on the cake for Johnson was that he had won by defeating his arch rival, Carl Lewis. But Johnson later tested positive for steroids and was stripped of the 100-meter gold medal, along with all the other medals and records he held. He competed again at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, but didn’t even make the finals in the 100. Sadly, he tested positive for steroids again in 1993 and was banned from competing for life.
2 Terrorist Attack at Munich
Although the use of terrorism to further political goals has stained the Olympic games on several occasions, none can match the shock and horror caused by the attack on the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 games in Munich. Black September, a militant wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, entered the Olympic village and captured nine Israeli athletes. The poorly executed rescue plan failed, and all nine hostages were dead after a shootout between German police and the terrorists.
1 Adolph Hitler at the Olympics
Adolf Hitler’s refusal to meet or even acknowledge Jesse Owens after his outstanding victories in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of the most embarrassing moment in Olympic history. Hitler, who had come into power after Berlin was selected to host the games, used them as a platform to publicize his fascist and racist propaganda of Aryan superiority. The silver lining was that Owens, an African-American, won four gold medals and was hailed as a hero by the people of Berlin.