x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Olympics: Politics and power at play

Part two of our three-part series reviewing the history of the Olympic Games.

Nadia Comaneci, aged 14, jubilates when scoreboard shows the perfect score of 10 during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
Nadia Comaneci, aged 14, jubilates when scoreboard shows the perfect score of 10 during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.

Following is the second in a three-part series detailing the most memorable moments from the Olympic Games.

London 1948

London came to the rescue of the Games for a second time even though Britain was in a parlous economic state after World War Two.

Dubbed the 'Austerity Olympics', the Games still attracted more than 4,000 competitors from 59 countries, with Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands winning gold medals in the 100, 200, 80 metres hurdles and 4x100 relay.

Bob Matthias, 17, won the decathlon in the gloom as there were no floodlights in Wembley stadium. Hungarian southpaw Laszlo Papp took the middleweight boxing title, the first of three Olympic golds he was to win before becoming the communist country's first professional.

 

Helsinki 1952

Emil Zatopek of Czecholsovakia, his head rolling in apparent agony with every stride, won the 5,000-10,000 metres double then added a third gold medal in the marathon. His wife Dana won the women's javelin with an Olympic record.

Australian Majorie Jackson upstaged the Americans by winning the women's 100-200 sprint double and her team mate Shirley Strickland captured the 80m hurdles title in world record time. Hungarians took four of the five women's swimming titles at stake.

The Soviet Union made its first appearance at the Olympics which made the medals table an extension of the Cold War rivalry with the United States.

 

Melbourne 1956

The 18-year-old Betty Cuthbert succeeded her compatriot Jackson as the Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion while Strickland retained her hurdles title.

Australia, enjoying a golden decade across a wide range of sports, also dominated the swimming with eight gold medals.

Ukrainian sailor Vladimir Kuts gave the Soviet Union their first two men's athletics medals with a 5,000-10,000 metres double and American Bobby Morrow won the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in the first sprint treble since Owens 20 years earlier.

Political antagonisms after Soviet troops crushed the Hungarian uprising spilled over into the pool where a water polo semi-final clash between the two countries degenerated into a bloodbath.

 

Rome 1960

A stylish Games in the Eternal City featured a host of the world's greatest athletes at their peak at the start of a turbulent decade which was to be reflected in the world of sport.

German Armin Hary shot out of the blocks to win the 100 metres in an Olympic record 10.2 seconds while graceful American Wilma Rudolph captured the women's sprint double.

Australian Herb Elliott won the 1,500m in world record time while Abebe Bikila, a member of Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial Guard, ran barefoot through the Roman night to win the men's marathon.

Cassius Clay, who was to embrace Muslim faith and change his name to Muhammad Ali, won the light-heavyweight boxing gold medal, and Danish yachtsman Paul Elvstrom captured a fourth consecutive gold medal in as many Games.

In an ominous portent of problems to come, traces of a stimulant were found in Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen's blood after he collapsed and died during the 100 kms road race.

 

Tokyo 1964

Japan staged the first Olympics in Asia a demonstration of their remarkable economic recovery following World War Two.

Yoshinori Sakai, born on the day Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, was chosen as the final torchbearer.

Bikila, this time wearing shoes, retained the marathon title and Billy Mills emerged from obscurity to defeat overwhelming favourite Ron Clarke in the 10,000 metres.

Ukrainian-born Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina collected a record 18th medal although she was relegated to second place in the all-round competition by Vera Caslavska.

American Don Schollander won four gold medals in the pool and Australian Dawn Fraser won her third consecutive 100 metres freestyle title. Fraser, the first woman to swim under 60 seconds, was later involved in an escapade in which a flag was stolen from the emperor's palace, a prank which earned her a four-year ban.

 

Mexico City 1968

Government troops killed at least 250 unarmed demonstrators before the Games opened, while Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos were sent home after they bowed their heads and raised clenched fists in a silent Black Power protest at the victory ceremony for the men's 200 metres.

World records tumbled in the thin air of the Mexican capital with Americans Jim Hines in the 100, Smith in the 200 and Lee Evans in the 400 setting fresh marks.

Another American, Bob Beamon, leaped into the history books with an astonishing long jump of 8.90 metres, a mark which was to stand for 23 years.

Dick Fosbury introduced the now standard "Fosbury flop" to the high jump, clearing the bar back first to win the gold medal, and Al Oerter won a fourth consecutive discus title.

 

Munich 1972

Eight members of the pro-Palestine Black September group broke into the athletes' village in a raid which led to the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes.

After a 34-hour break the Games continued but the threat of terrorist attacks has haunted international sport since.

American Mark Spitz won a record seven gold medals in the pool and a tiny 17-year-old Belarussian gymnast Olga Korbut captivated a global television audience, performing the first back flip on the uneven bars.

The US men's basketball team, previously unbeaten in Olympic competition, were defeated by the Soviet Union in the last three seconds of the final.

 

Montreal 1976

A New Zealand rugby tour of white-ruled South Africa sparked a walkout by black African nations, the first of three successive political boycotts which were to blight the Games.

The Montreal Games also imposed a huge burden on the Canadian taxpapers and the debt was not finally paid off until 2006.

Fourteen-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci recorded the first perfect score 10.0 with her performance on the uneven bars during the women's all-round competition and ended the Games with seven faultless scores.

Pole Irena Szewinska won the women's 400 metres, her seventh Olymic medal in five events, and the powerfully built Cuban Alberto Juantorena completed a men's 400-800 double.

U.S. swimmers dominated the men's events and East Germany won 11 out of 13 of the women's. As they had failed to win a single medal four years earlier, suspicions were openly voiced that their performances were drug-assisted, suspicions that were confirmed in documents discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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