x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Olympics: Flames of controversy

Boycotts and bans in the third and final part of our series detailing the memorable moments of the modern Games.

Two-time Los Angeles gold medalist Greg Louganis bangs his headin Seoul 1988.
Two-time Los Angeles gold medalist Greg Louganis bangs his headin Seoul 1988.

Moscow 1980

A massive celebration to demonstrate the superiority of the communist system was disrupted through a US-led boycott after the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan the previous year.

British athletes were discouraged from attending the Games but not banned which gave Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett the opportunity to consummate one of the great sporting rivalries on the ultimate stage.

Coe, who had taken a second off Juantorena's world record in the previous year, ran a tactically inept race in the 800 metres to finish behind Ovett.

Ovett was now favourite to emulate Juantorena's double four years earlier but this time Coe was determined to show he was a racer as well as a record-breaker and a ferocious finish ensured the gold.

Miruts Yifter won the 5,000-10,000m double for Ethiopia and Cuba's Tefilo Stevenson claimed a third heavyweight boxing title.

Los Angeles 1984

The Soviet Union predictably retaliated for their Moscow humiliation by boycotting the second Games in the 'city of angels', which did not upset a jingoistic home crowd in the least.

They cheered Carl Lewis as he won the same four gold medals as Jesse Owens in 1936 and revelled in Joan Benoit's victory in the first women's Olympic marathon.

In the absence of the East Germans, Valerie Brisco-Hooks won the 200-400m double and Ed Moses, unbeaten in 104 previous races, displayed his enduring excellence by winning the 400m hurdles.

Mary Lou Retton became an instant heroine and attracted a flood of endorsements when she won the women's individual all-round event and Moroccan Nawal El Moutawakel became the first woman from an Islamic nation to win an Olympic title with victory in the 400m hurdles.

Californian Mary Decker, a double gold medallists at the first world championships the previous year, tumbled to the track after colliding with Zola Budd in the 3,000m. The barefoot Budd, running for Britain under a flag of convenience because her native South Africa was still banned, left the arena in tears to a chorus of boos and whistles.

Coe, who had been afflicted by a serious viral illness, became the first man to retain the Olympic 1,500m title. His compatriot Daley Thompson retained the decathlon crown after an epic confrontation with Germany's world record holder Juergen Hingsen.

Seoul 1988

Tensions with North Korea, a potentially serious threat, dissipated sufficiently to allow the Games to go ahead peacefully. They were then embroiled in the biggest doping scandal to hit the Olympics yet when Canadian Ben Johnson tested positive for the steroid stanozolol after defeating Lewis in world record time in the 100m final.

Following his abrupt departure from Seoul, media attention focused on Florence Griffith-Joyner, whose 100m and 200m world records set in 1988 have not subsequently been neared let alone broken. Griffith-Joyner, who never failed a dope test, retired suddenly the following year after random drugs testing was introduced and died 10 years later.

Boxing was bedevilled by appallingly prejudiced judging with New Zealand referee Keith Walker jostled by local officials after awarding a decision against a South Korean and there was a spate of positive tests in the weightlifting.

On the plus side, Kenyan men won the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and steeplechase titles. American Greg Louganis retained his springboard diving title with stitches inserted his head after hitting after the board in the preliminaries.

Barcelona 1992

The Catalan capital, a city of architectural marvels, laid on a stylish Games based on the hill of Montjuic overlooking the harbour.

South Africa were readmitted to the Games leading to an unforgettable women's 10,000m final where black athlete Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia defeated white South African Elana Meyer. The pair held hands on a lap of honour.

Lewis failed to qualify for the American 100m team, an event won by Briton Linford Christie, but retained the long jump title and ran a sizzling final leg on the winning 4x100m relay team. Belarusian Vitali Scherbo won six of the eight men's gymnastics titles, including four in a single day.

High on Montjuic, 13-year-old Chinese Mingxia Fu entranced spectators to become the youngest Olympic diving champion. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird celebrated the arrival of US NBA professionals to the Games by helping the 'Dream Team' cruise to the gold medal.

Atlanta 1996

The Games were afflicted by logistical problems, most notably transport, after a bomb explosion in Centennial Park which killed two people and injured more than 100.

The overt commercial hustling was also distasteful but the true Olympic spirit ultimately triumphed with Muhammad Ali, his hands trembling with the effects of Parkinson's syndrome, lighting the flame through sheer force of will.

Michael Johnson won an unprecedented 200-400m double, emitting a mighty roar of triumph after smashing his own world record in the shorter event.

Donovan Bailey upstaged the Americans by setting a world record in the men's 100 metres final then anchoring the Canadian team to victory in the 4x100m relay.

Lewis, who again missed qualifying for the 100m, defied the years and his younger rivals to win a fourth long jump gold.

Sydney 2000

Sydney represented a fresh start for the International Olympic Committee after four members were expelled and several others sanctioned in a bribes-for-votes scandal over the allocation of the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City.

A sunburned continent welcomed the Games with new world enthusiasm and Cathy Freeman signalled the reconciliation of the native Aboriginals with the European settlers by lighting the Olympic flame. Under intense pressure she then delivered the 400 metres title her nation had demanded.

Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie outsprinted his great Kenyan rival Paul Tergat to win the 10,000 metres by the narrowest of margins and British rower Steve Redgrave won a fifth successive Olympic title.

Marion Jones failed in her goal of going one better than Owens and Lewis with five gold medals, finishing with the 100-200m double and a relay gold.

During the Games it was revealed that her then husband CJ Hunter, the world shot put champion, had tested positive for the steroid nandrolone. After years of denial Jones confessed she had been using the designer drug THG at the time of the Sydney Games and was stripped of all her medals and results.

Athens 2004

Serious doubts that Athens would be ready in time were finally allayed, only for yet another doping scandal to blight the Olympics, this time on the eve of the opening ceremony.

Kostas Kenteris, the defending 200m champion, and his training partner Katerina Thanou, the 100m silver medallist behind Jones in Sydney, both missed a scheduled doping test and were withdrawn from the Games. Kenteris had been selected to light the Olympic flame.

Thereafter, the Games ran smoothly with the shot put competitions staged at ancient Olympia and the men's marathon on the final day concluding in the 1896 Olympic stadium. Moroccan 1,500m world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj finally won the Olympic title at his third attempt and added the 5,000m gold for good measure.

Britain's Kelly Holmes, whose career had been disrupted by injury, also recorded a memorable double with victory in the 800m and 1,500m.

Beijing 2008

China laid on the most extravagant opening ceremony yet for a Games designed to demonstrates its burgeoning economic and political might.

Fears about possible terrorism, athletes' protests following the disruption of the torch relay by pro-Tibet supporters and air quality proved unfounded and the Games provided a stage for the best sprinter and swimmer in Olympic history.

Competing in the "Bird's Nest" stadium, Usain Bolt shattered the world 100m and 200m records and led the Jamaican team to a further world record in the 4x100m relay.

In the pool, Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals and set six world records.

Russian Yelena Isinbayeva increased her own world pole vault record to 5.05m.

The hosts won the most gold medals with the United States topping the overall medals table.