Follow by Email

Friday, February 21, 2014

Interesting Olympics

Ever since I was a kid I loved the Olympics...especially the Winter Games.  From my first cognition of the Games in Albertville, then on to Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Torino, Vancouver and now Sochi, the different competitions have fascinated me.

And maybe even more so, I enjoy the stories that go along with the pageantry, like when NBC did a piece on Allied infiltration of a Nazi "Heavy Water" factory in Norway during the Lillehammer games.  When I was doing my paper routes in the middle of winter back then I used to pretend that I was one of the soldiers, even going so far as to carry homemade wooden guns with a homemade removable silencer.  I know, I'm a huge nerd.  Homeschoolers, right!  (Nowadays, if a kid got caught doing that he probably would get in actual trouble which would make some of the intrigue actually real).

Of course, as anyone my age and older would know, the Games aren't nearly as fun anymore.  Partly that's probably due to the commercialization of entire sports.  Maybe some of it stems from the fact that a lot of the American athletes are paid to participate in their sports while many from poorer foreign countries have to be motivated only for love of the game.  But I think the biggest reason the Games don't seem to have the same meaning is the end of the Cold War.  Remember back in the day when we hated the Soviets?  I mean literally hated the Soviet Union.  Those Olympics just seemed like the extension of the Cold War.  Sure, there was the Nuclear Arms Race, the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, bomb shelters, gas masks, Star Wars (the real one, not the Harrison Ford version), etc...  But when the Olympics rolled around, if our teenage girls could beat your teenage girls on the ice, we win!

Well, now that I've gotten a chance to reveal to the world a glimpse into
how weird I am, I wanted to share an interesting article that I happened to read this morning over breakfast.  Hope you enjoy!

The following is taken from the website and is written by Justin Feinstein.  Due to some other links and content on that website I chose to post it here rather than link to it.  But full credit needs to go to the actual author.

7 Stories You Haven't Heard About the Olympics

by Justin Feinstein


Scoring a perfect 10 is the dream of every Olympic gymnast. In 1924, 22 male gymnasts made this dream a reality in the same event. But this wasn't due to some freak occurrence or heightened level of competition "“ the event was rope climbing, which has since been discontinued.


Basketball's debut at the 1936 Olympics was nothing short of a disaster. Not only were the finals a low scoring affair (the United States snagged gold from Canada in a yawn-inducing 19-8 game), but the conditions were a mess. Part of the problem was Germany's venue: the game was played outdoors. On a dirt court. In the pouring rain! Playing on mud made dribbling and bounce-passes impossible. Things weren't much easier for the fans. A lack of seating forced all (approximately 1,000) spectators to stand and watch in the rain.


As bad as Germany's basketball planning was, the event barely holds a candle to the 1900 Paris Olympics, which were held in conjunction with the World's Fair and spread out over five months. Take the marathon, for instance, which was rife with logistical nightmares. The event was run through the city's active streets, complete with pedestrians and bicyclists. Worse still, several competitors got lost because the course was so poorly marked. Of course, the long race was just one of the many memorable events, including several that would never be seen again. The 1900 Olympics were the only Games to feature such time-wasters as pigeon shooting and swimming through an obstacle course "“ which included swimming under boats.


The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 and yielded perhaps the most unlikely champion in Olympic history. A student at Oxford, John Boland traveled to Greece as a spectator to take in the excitement. But a friend on the Olympic Committee had signed him up for the tennis competition. Despite a lack of proper attire, the plucky Boland decided to go ahead and play (in his dress shoes, no less) and actually won.


Margaret Ives Abbott was the first American woman to win a gold medal. Unfortunately, she lived her entire life without ever knowing what she had accomplished. Since the aforementioned 1900 Paris events were spread out informally over several months, de-emphasizing their Olympic status, she simply thought she had won a nine-hole golf tournament in Paris.


The 1904 Olympic Marathon in St. Louis was perhaps the most brutal event in Olympic history. On a sweltering hot summer day, marathon runners took off on an unpaved dusty course, following pace cars and inhaling exhaust. Many runners had to withdraw to receive medical attention, and even the winner, American Thomas Hicks, needed repeated medical care both during and after the race. And by "medical care," we mean strychnine and brandy. Of course, our favorite tale from the Games is that of Felix Carvajal, a Cuban who took "The Tortoise" approach to running the race. Despite stopping to chat with spectators and breaking to pick and eat fruit from an orchard (which made him sick), Carvajal still managed to finish in fourth place.


The ancient Olympic Games served as the basis for our modern Olympics, and fortunately the whole "competing in the nude" thing wasn't the only custom left to history. Athletes that arrived late to compete were fined, with the only acceptable excuses being shipwreck, weather or pirates. Athletes that were caught cheating were also fined, but were allowed to keep their winnings. But married women caught watching the Games got it the worst: they were executed. Of course, that probably had something to do with the whole competing in the nude thing.
And let's not forget three of our favorite Olympic athletes. Swede Oscar Swahn won a silver medal in a deer-shooting event at the 1920 Olympics at the age of 72! In 1904, American gymnast George Eyser won six medals (three gold) despite having a wooden left leg, which is even more amazing. But Hungarian pistol shooter Karoly Takacs taught himself how to shoot left-handed after his right (shooting) hand was shattered by a grenade, and then went on to win the rapid-fire shooting event at the 1948 Olympics. He gets our gold.
Justin Feinstein is an occasional contributor to Besides the Olympics, he also knows a lot about weird medical conditions, New York restaurants and keeping infants entertained. You should read his blog: Guardedly Optimistic.

No comments:

Post a Comment