In its purest form, the Olympic Games are a time when the world stops fighting, gathers together, and proceeds to try to show up every other country by beating them at sports. Essentially, it is a chance for friendly competition between nations for the greater glory of one's homeland. In reality, however, it can get pretty political. Just ask the residents of Moscow and Los Angeles about when they hosted the Olympics.Originally from Ancient Greece, the games were revived as a concept in 1896.(Note: Tear Jerker examples have been relocated to the YMMV page.)
The Ancient Olympics
Held from 776 BC to AD 393 in (appropriately enough) Olympia, Greece. As with the modern Olympic Games, they were held every four years or Olympiad.The Games were only open to free men who spoke Greek. (Although women could enter horses in the equestrian event.) Winners were given wreaths made of olive branches (Yay!) and became heroes to their hometowns (which often brought with it a considerable sum of money). Athletes competed in the nude. In fact, our word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek word "gymnos," meaning "naked".Back in the day, Olympics were very big deals indeed, during the Olympic period, all wars were put on hold, armies were forbidden to enter Olympia and the use of the death penalty is suspended. In contrast to the modern world, where the Olympics gets suspended in favour of warfare.The Games were ultimately banned by Emperor Theodosius I, who established Christianity as the state religion of The Roman Empire and viewed the Olympics as a pagan festival.
The Modern Summer Olympics
Established by a group led by Pierre de Coubertin, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896. Since then they have been held every four years, with the exception of 1916, 1940 and 1944, for fairly obvious reasons.Originally a strictly amateur affair in the truest sense of the word, some early winners literally were just in town and decided to have a go and Jim Thorpe, who won two medals at the 1912 Stockholm Games, was actually stripped of them when it emerged he'd earlier played baseball semi-professionally. He got them back in 1983, thirty years after his death.Events for the games have varied over the years, with some early events (like lacrosse and tug of war) not lasting and some more recent additions, like Badminton in 1992, Taekwondo in 2000 and Rugby Sevens from 2016.One unique event for the games is the modern pentathlon consisting of five events, purportedly based on the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines:
Show jumping note The competitors don't know which horse they will ride, until a few minutes before the competition start, supposedly to mimic the idea of grabbing a strange horse from a nearby field. Hilarity Ensues as they try to make it through the course on a horse they may never have ridden before.
200m freestyle swimming
3km cross-country running.
The host city for any given Summer Olympics is chosen about seven years in advance by the International Olympic Committee with cities submitting detailed bids, which are voted on in a fairly complex process. Hosting the Olympics is a very expensive thing, although it does give you a nice stadium or three and some vastly improved city infrastructure when you're done.
The Games so far
All Games are numbered as the "Games of the [Roman numeral] Olympiad", an Olympiad being a four-year cycle.
I — 1896: Athens, Greece: The first games, whose main highlight was the triumph of Greek shepherd Spyridon Louis in the marathon, earning him a place in the Greek sporting pantheon.
II — 1900: Paris, France: The first Games where women competed. Largely seen at the time as a sideshow to the Exposition Universelle (World's Fair) that Paris was hosting that year. Pierre de Coubertin remarked afterward that he was surprised that the "Olympic Moment" survived these games.
III — 1904: St. Louis, Missouri: A confusing, badly organized mess, with the Russo-Japanese War and the traveling keeping many Europeans away. Like Paris 1900, these were basically a sideshow for the big World's Fair that year — the Louisiana Purchase Exposition — and indeed, de Coubertin had been browbeaten into accepting St. Louis as the host city even after Chicago won the right to host the Games fair and square. The marathon was a farce and a half.note To summarize: The day of the marathon was brutally hot, and athletes had to dodge oncoming traffic as they ran. The judges originally gave the gold medal to an athlete who has dropped out of the race nine miles earlier and was just jogging past the finish line to pick up his clothes and judges did not realize their mistake until after the podium ceremony. The actual winner, Thomas Hicks (U.S.), was doped with strychnine (the performance enhancer of the day) and had to be carried half dead past the finish line. The also race included Len Tau, the first African to participate in the Olympics, he placed 9th, but only because he was chased a mile off course by dogs (he worked as a sideshow freak in the off hours as a supposed "savage", he was actually a university student). Finally, there is Felix Carbajal, a Cuban postman running in homemade shorts, who, despite taking snack break at an orchard en route (the apples he ate gave him mild food poisoning, so he had to take a nap too), still came in fourth. In short, these were the games that almost ENDED the Olympics!
A special games were held in Athens in 1906, with many firsts for the games, but this is not considered an Olympics now by the IOC. Still, a lot of things we now take for granted began here, including the Parade of the Athletes, an Olympic Village, and the Closing Ceremonies. Prince George was involved in the organizing and some of the judging, and ran the last lap of the Marathon alongside the winner, Canadian Billy Sherring.
VII — 1920: Antwerp, Belgium: First appearance of the Olympic Flag, the Oath and the doves. The losers of the First World War weren't invited.
VIII — 1924: Paris, France: Not especially well known, except for the movie Chariots of Fire.
IX — 1928: Amsterdam, Netherlands: First appearance of the Olympic flame.
X — 1932: Los Angeles, California: First use of the victory podium.
XI — 1936: Berlin, Germany: "The Nazi Games" and the first to be broadcast on television. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in a highly controversial games that saw a Spanish boycott, the first torch relay, and only "Aryans" being allowed to compete for Germany.
XII — 1940: Tokyo, Japan: Taken from Tokyo when the Second Sino-Japanese War began, then moved to Helsinki, Finland, then definitely cancelled after the Second World War began. An unofficial POW games was held in Stalag XIII-A though.
XIII — 1944: London, United Kingdom: Cancelled. However, an unofficial POW games was held in Oflag II-C by the Polish prisoners with German permission.
XIV — 1948: London, United Kingdom: The "austerity games", with athletes housed in barracks. Germany and Japan, losers of World War II, were banned.
XV — 1952: Helsinki, Finland: The only appearance of Saar, then not part of West Germany. The USSR turned up for the first time.
XVI — 1956: Melbourne, Australia: First games in the southern hemisphere. The equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden due to quarantine regulations.
XVII — 1960: Rome, Italy: Having earlier suffered from polio, Wilma Rudolph won three sprint medals. The Games also marks the debut of nineteen-year-old Cassius Clay — the boy who would become Muhammad Ali — through a gold medal at light-heavyweight boxing.
XVIII — 1964: Tokyo, Japan: First Games in Asia, the first broadcast live via satellite, and also the first in color for viewers in Japan and America. To emphasize Japan's message of postwar recovery, the Flame was lit by 19-year-old runner Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in 6 August 1945 — the day the atomic bomb destroyed his native Hiroshima.
XIX — 1968: Mexico City, Mexico: Two American athletes did a Black Power salute and got banned for life, while somebody got banned for drug use for the first time. The Games were also marred by student protests. On a lighter note, the Games feature the first woman to light the Olympic Flame, hurdler Enriqueta Basilio.
XX — 1972: Munich, West Germany (now Germany): Tragically overshadowed by the murder of eleven Israeli athletes by terrorists. There was also some controversy about the men's basketball final. Particularly jarring since this edition of the Games had been designed as the "Serenity Games", with garlanded children and everything pastel-hued, and a stadium that looked as if it was about to take off and fly. The very security guards even wore robin's egg blue.
XXII — 1980: Moscow, USSR (now Russia): The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan saw a large-scale (65 nations) Western boycott of these games, with some nations only parading under the Olympic Flag, so these Games were dominated by the USSR and East Germany. A lot of world records got broken, though. These were also the first games in which the opening and closing ceremonies became the expensive, full-blown, almost theatrical events we know today.
XXIII — 1984: Los Angeles, California: A smaller Eastern boycott for this one, allowing America to earn its most medals since Saint Louis 1904. Also had a theme by John Williams that is still played by NBC to this day and a guy fly a jet-pack during the opening ceremonies, and the appearance of a fake UFO during the closing ceremonies. Widely considered the most financially successful Games, according to The Other Wiki.
XXIV — 1988: Seoul, South Korea: The attention the Games brought helped make South Korea a democracy, in an event that saw a very controversial boxing judgment. Also Ben Johnson was caught doping after winning a few golds. During most opening ceremonies, doves of peace were released after the lighting of the Flame. In Seoul, they let the doves out before the torch came in, a number of confused doves perched on the rim of the Olympic Cauldron just before it was lit, and were burned to death on worldwide television; that's why this was the last Games at which live doves were released (future editions of the Games would use replicas). On a side note, one gymnast who was infamously snubbed when participants were selected for this games despite winning the National Championship in her home country went on to become an action star in the James Bond parody Spitfire.
XXV — 1992: Barcelona, Spain: Twelve of the states of the recently defunct USSR competed as a unified team and Yugoslav athletes compete as individuals. This marks the advent of USA Basketball's "Dream Team". Also best-known for having probably the most memorable lighting of the Olympic Flame in history, featuring Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo firing a flaming arrow into the cauldron note If you watch the footage closely, the arrow actually goes over the cauldron and falls behind it. It was the arrow that triggered the flame though, a large cloud of unlit gas has been allowed to build up over the cauldron which was ignited by the passage of the arrow. The archer deliberately aimed long because a burning arrow falling on the audience may not have been the best note to start an Olympiad on. Also featured the Olympics theme song "Barcelona", sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé
XXVII — 2000: Sydney, Australia: Basketball fans probably remember that dunk by Vince Carter. Sydney 2000 was also dubbed the "Women's Games", celebrating 100 years of female participation (it was also the first Games to have women's weightlifting, and saw increased female participation, albeit then at 25% the number of men). The final torch relay was done entirely by women medalists from past Games. Aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman had the honor of becoming the first lighter of the Flame to win a gold medal at the same games. The Cauldron traveled up a manmade waterfall, delayed for about four minutes owing to a computer foulup, and continued to rise up the waterfall in a truly awesome moment.
XXVIII — 2004: Athens, Greece: Touted as the "Homecoming Games", this marks Greece's best performance since the inception of the games. However, these games were notable by the low number of attendance at the events, and eventually being one of the contributors to putting Greece into a crippling default later in the decade. These Games also served as the introduction to 19-year-old American swimmer Michael Phelps, who showed much promise with six golds and two bronzes.
XXIX — 2008: Beijing, China: A controversial Games, with more than one Torch runner getting attacked by pro-Tibet protesters and the Flame actually being deliberately put out three times in Paris by security. (Torch relay teams carry a backup lamp, also lit in Athens, for incidents like these.) The main event, though, passed without incident. Phelps set the record for the most medals in one Games at eight golds on all his events. This also marked the debut of 21-year-old Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, who set a 100m sprint record while showboating for the last 20 meters. Live But Delayed. The dazzling ceremonies of these Games will possibly not be beaten for a long, long time. The opening culminated with Li Ning, 1984 six-time medal-winning gymnast (3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) and China's most successful Olympian, literally running through the sky with the Torch in hand across a giant scroll which unrolled to reveal the stylized cauldron as he lit the Flame.
XXX — 2012: London, United Kingdom. This made London the first city to host the Games thrice, as well as the first Games where all 204 participating nationsnote including independent athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles and South Sudan have female athletes. These Games boast Great Britain's best medal haul since 1908, Usain Bolt's continued domination of sprint events, and the dazzling finale of Michael Phelps' career with four golds and two silvers, setting him up as the most successful Olympian ever with 22 medals (eighteen gold and two each of silver and bronze). The Opening Ceremonies will probably also go down in history as "the one where the Queen parachuted into the arena with James Bond".
XXXI — 2016: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The first games in South America. These games will come just two years after Brazil hosts The World Cup in 2014, so preparations are already well underway—or would be, if they weren't tied up in red tape.
XXXII — 2020: To be decided on 7 September 2013 on a meeting hosted by Buenos Aires, Argentina. The candidates for host cities are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. If Istanbul wins the bid, it will mark the first ever time for the Olympics to be hosted by a primarily Muslim nation, and a unique event since Istanbul is the only city in the world to be located where two different continents (Europe and Asia) meet.
The Modern Winter Olympics
The Winter Olympic Games consist of multiple winter sport events and are held every four years, also excepting 1940 and 1944. The first winter games were held in 1924. Varying sports have been added since, but cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been in every Olympics since 1924. Today's games also feature snowboarding and luge.The Winter Games were initially held during the same year as the Summer Olympics — and before World War II, in the same country. Even now fewer countries tend to participate than do in the Summer Games. However, as the Winter Olympics have grown in popularity the International Olympic Committee decided in 1986 to off-set the Winter Games from the Summer ones. In 1992, both Summer and Winter Olympics were held, but in different nations. The next Winter Olympics were held in 1994, and the next Summer Olympics in 1996.
The Games so far
Unlike the Summer Olympics, which count the Olympiad whether the games occurred in them or not, the Roman numerals of the Winter Olympics count only the games.
I — 1924: Chamonix, France
II — 1928: St. Moritz, Switzerland
III — 1932: Lake Placid, New York
IV — 1936: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
V — 1948: St. Moritz, Switzerland: The first Winter Games held in a different country from that year's Summer Games (although St. Moritz and London are geographically closer than Lake Placid and Los Angeles).
VI — 1952: Oslo, Norway
VII — 1956: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy: The 1944 Winter Games were originally awarded to the town, but were canceled due to World War II. The city reentered the bidding process and was awarded the 1956 Games, whose venues were all in walking distance from each other. These Games were also the first to rely heavily on corporate sponsorship and were the first televised Winter Games.
VIII — 1960: Squaw Valley, California (right across the state-line from Reno, NV): The "austerity games" of the Winter Olympics, bobsledding and luge were omitted as it was considered too expensive to build a track.
IX — 1964: Innsbruck, Austria
X — 1968: Grenoble, France
XI — 1972: Sapporo, Japan: Sapporo won rights to the 1940 Winter Games but initially resigned after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The Games were later canceled altogether due to the war. These games were the first time Japan had ever won gold in any Winter Games.
XII — 1976: Innsbruck, Austria: The Games were originally awarded to Denver, Colorado, but locals voted down a bond issue to fund necessary construction, and the IOC turned to the hosts of twelve years earlier. To this day, Denver remains the sole city ever to decline hosting the Olympic Games that were awarded to them. Given the financial effect of 1976's summer games on their host city of Montréal, one could hardly blame them.
XIII — 1980: Lake Placid, New York: Famous for the "Miracle on Ice", in which the motley American ice hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet team (which had beaten them 10-3 two weeks prior) en route to a gold medal.
XIV — 1984: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina): British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skated to Bolero and promptly earned the only perfect set of marks ever given to anyone in any discipline of figure skating ever. They are now British national heroes. These games had a rather sad post-script years later when Yugoslavia broke up violently, and images of tanks parked in the Olympics ice rink where Torvill & Dean had skated became iconic images of the conflict.
XV — 1988: Calgary, Alberta: Canadian figure skater Elizabeth Manley is best remembered for her performance in the long program. She won silver. Also famous for Jamaica participating in the bobsled, where it was seen as unusual for a tropical country to be competing in a winter sport. The theory was that having world-class sprinters on the team would get the sled off to a fast start, providing a competitive edge down the rest of the track.
XVI — 1992: Albertville, France: Last Winter Games held at the same year as the Summer Games. Most of the venues for these Games, including the ceremonies stadium, were temporary. The ceremonies were choreographed by Philip Decouffle and were very similar to that of Cirque du Soleil, with acrobats performing on a very tall central mast along with many other dazzling feats.
XVII — 1994: Lillehammer, Norway: First Winter Games held in a different year from the Summer Games. Widely considered the best Winter Games, featuring an opening ceremony on a ski jump venue, whose climax was skier Stein Gruben going downhill with the Torch before the Cauldron was lit by Crown Prince Haakon, whose father, King Harald V, and grandfather, Olav V, were themselves Olympians. In the U.S., a tabloid-friendly scandal involving rival women's figure skating competitors Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding provided fodder for comedians and sketch comedy shows for months; Harding never lived it down.
XVIII — 1998: Nagano, Japan: The first Winter Games featuring women's ice hockey, curling and snowboarding. It was also the first time NHL players were allowed to play in men's ice hockey. The bobsled track used for these games was notable for having a portion that sloped uphill.
XIX — 2002: Salt Lake City, Utah: Notable for a bribery controversy, the expose of which forced several IOC members to resign. These were the first Games under the current IOC President, Jacques Rogge, Belgian orthopedic surgeon and himself an Olympic rower from 1968 to 1976. The scores of a figure-skating judge were also thrown out, resulting in two couples being awarded gold medals for pairs skating. And Apolo Ohno's first Olympic gold medal was awarded after South Korea's Kim Dong-Sung was disqualified, resulting in over 16,000 threatening emails to the Olympic website, which shut the site down for almost nine hours. It was also the first time since 1952 that Canada won the gold medal in Men's ice hockey (the final was played against the USA). This also featured the lighting of the Olympic Flame by the members of the legendary 1980 American men's ice hockey team. Also notable for Australia winning it's first Winter gold medal, when Steven Bradbury won gold in the speed skating final when all his opponents fell over just before the finish line.
XX — 2006: Turin, Italy: When you are about to win a gold medal, don't be showy.note Unless you're Usain Bolt, of course. This also marks the last public performance of legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who performed "Nessun Dorma" at the end of the opening ceremony — a year before he died of pancreatic cancer.
XXI — 2010: Vancouver, British Columbia: The Winter Games that ended Canada's dry spell when it comes to gold medals on home games, starting with Alexandre Bilodeau in men's moguls, followed by thirteen others, culminating in winning gold for two of Canada's most beloved sports — men's curling and ice hockey. This broke the record for most golds at a single games, which had been previously shared by Norway and the Soviet Union. Also the first Games to present the Olympic and Paralympic mascots together as a single group instead of having separate, unrelated mascots.
XXII — 2014: Sochi, Russia
XXIII — 2018: Pyeongchang, South Korea: Also counts as a "Throw the Dog a Bone" moment for the South Korean ski resort dangerously close to the border with North Korea, after narrowly losing the 2010 and 2014 bids.
The Paralympic Games
"Mind, Body, Spirit" / "Spirit In Motion"
Like the Olympics, but for athletes with disabilities. Held after the Summer Olympics, in the same venues. The name means that they run parallel to the Olympic Games, not that it's for the paralysed. Do not confuse them with the Special Olympics, which is a competition for mentally handicapped athletes that's styled after the Olympics but unaffiliated. Also does not include either parachuting or paragliding which are events in the World Games, which tries to be like the Olympics for non-Olympic sports. Most of the sports are about the same as the Olympics but there are a few that are exclusive to the Paralympics, such as boccia, wheelchair rugby, and goalball. Now has its own page!
Presidents of the International Olympic Committee
Demetrius Vikelas (1835-1908; presided 1894-1896), Greek businessman appointed by De Coubertin to preside over the revival of the Games.
Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937; presided 1896-1925), French teacher and founder of the modern Olympic Games.
Godefroy de Blonay (1869-1937; presided 1916-1919), Swiss nobleman who presided over the IOC in lieu of De Coubertin, who was away on conscription during World War I.
Juan Antonio Samaranch (1920-2010; presided 1980-2001), Spanish businessman under whose administration the Games saw increased commercial funding.
Jacques Rogge (b. 1942; presided 2001-present), Belgian opthalmologist and former Olympic rower from 1968 to 1976. His administration featured stricter anti-doping regulations and increased closeness to the athletes.
Million Dollar Legs, a largely forgotten W.C. Fields classic, is all about getting Ruritanian citizens to participate in the 1932 Olympics.
Chariots of Fire (technically not fiction, but they did take a few liberties ...)
Rainbow Six involves a plot to start a global plague via the air conditioning at the Sydney opening ceremony. Clancy failed to realise the games actually took place in the late winter/early spring of Australia.
Miranda Frost in Die Another Day won a gold medal at Sydney by default when her opponent died of a steroids overdose arranged by Gustav Graves.
Animalympics a 1980 animation originally broadcast it's Winter Games segment on NBC TV, but the summer edition was canceled after the boycott. Latter reorganized into a film, but the summer half still suffered from the lack of completed animation.
A Young Justice storyline was set at the "Sydney World Games". The story involved the former Arrowette entering the archery competition, and Zandia (an island nation whose population consists entirely of supervillains taking advantage of its lack of extradition laws) entering, so Cassie was competing against Merlyn and Artemis.
Lighters of the Olympic Flame happen to be either accomplished Olympians or symbolic entities.
Oslo 1952: Eigil Nansen, grandson of famous explorer Fridtjof Nansen.
Helsinki 1952: Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen, two of Finland's most successful Olympic runners.
Tokyo 1964: Yoshinori Sakai, 19-year-old runner born on the day the atomic bomb ravaged his native Hiroshima.
Mexico City 1968: Enriqueta Basilio, sprinter who had the honor of being the first woman to light the Flame.
Montreal 1976: Stéphane Préfontaine and Sandra Henderson, two teenagers symbolizing Canada's French and English legacies.
Moscow 1980: Sergei Belov, basketball player and part of the controversial 1972 gold medal team.
Los Angeles 1984: Rafer Johnson, 1960 decathlon gold medalist and the first African-American to be given such an honor.
Albertville 1992: Michel Platini, football superstar and current president of UEFA, together with seven-year-old local Alpine skier François-Cyrille Grange, whose younger brother Jean-Baptiste would win the 2009 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup slalom event.
Lillehammer 1994: Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, in honor of his father and grandfather, both Olympians.
Atlanta 1996: Muhammad Ali, 1960 boxing gold medalist and one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Sydney 2000: Cathy Freeman, 1996 athletics silver medalist who would go on to win gold at these very Games. Also symbolic in that she is Aboriginal.
Salt Lake City 2002: The 1980 American ice hockey team that pulled off a Dark Horse Victory over the heavily-favored USSR team en route to a gold.
Athens 2004: Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, 1996 windsurfing gold medalist who would win silver at these Games.
Turin 2006: Stefania Belmondo, 1992-2002 Olympic skier, winner of five bronzes, three silvers and two golds, and one of Italy's most successful Olympians.
Beijing 2008: Li Ning, 1984 gymnast (one bronze, two silvers and three golds) and China's most successful Olympian.
Vancouver 2010: Catriona LeMay Doan, 1998-2002 speedskater, winner of one bronze and two golds, and Canada's first back-to-back gold medalist; Steve Nash, basketball superstar, 2005-2006 NBA MVP and philanthropist; Nancy Greene, 1968 gold-and-silver-winning alpine skier and senator; and Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey superstar and executive director for Canada's gold-winning 2002 hockey team.
London 2012: Seven teenage athletes nominated by seven of Britain's greatest athletes, in keeping with London 2012's theme of "inspiring a generation": Callum Airlie (Shirley Robertson, sailor and 2000-2004 gold medalist), Jordan Duckitt (Duncan Goodhew, swimmer and 1980 bronze-and-gold medalist), Desiree Henry (Daley Thompson, 1980-1984 decathlon gold medalist), Katie Kirk (Mary Peters, 1972 pentathlon gold medalist), Cameron MacRitchie (Steve Redgrave, rower and winner of one team bronze from 1988 and five individual golds on all his appearances from 1984 to 2000), Aidan Reynolds (Lynn Davies, 1964 long jump gold medalist) and Adelle Tracey (Dame Kelly Holmes, runner, 2000 bronze medalist and 2004 2-time golds medalist); earlier, Redgrave received the Flame from a speedboat driven by David Beckham, football superstar who played for Manchester United of the English Premier League, Real Madrid of Spain's La Liga, Los Angeles Galaxy of USA's Major League Soccer, and currently Paris Saint-Germain of France's Ligue 1.
To a lesser extent, all eight carriers of the Olympic Flag were also famous personalities. Most notable are...
Sydney 2000: Bill Roycroft, 1960 equestrian champion; Murray Rose, four-time swimming champion; Liane Tooth, 1988 and 1996 hockey champion; Gillian Rolton, 1992 and 1996 equestrian champion; Marjorie Jackson, 1952 athletics champion; Lorraine Crapp, four-time swimming medalist; Michael Wenden, 1968 four-time swimming medalist; and Nick Green, 1992 and 1996 rowing champion.
Salt Lake 2002: John Glenn, American astronaut and former senator (Americas); Desmond Tutu, South African Methodist bishop and human rights activist (Africa); Kazuyoshi Funaki, Japanese skier and 1998 two-time gold medalist (Asia); Lech Walesa, former president of Poland (Europe); Cathy Freeman, Australian runner and 2000 gold medalist (Oceania); Jean-Claude Killy, French skier and three-time 1964 gold medalist (Sport); Steven Spielberg, director (Culture); and Jean-Michel Cousteau, French environmentalist and son of legendary marine explorer Jacques Cousteau (Environment).
Torino 2006: Sophia Loren, Italian actress; Isabel Allende, Chilean novelist; Nawal el Moutawakel, Moroccan runner and the first Muslim woman to win a gold medal in 1984; Susan Sarandon, American actress and activist; Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist; Manuela Di Centa, Italian skier; Maria Mutola, Mozambiquan runner and 2000 gold medalist; and Somaly Mam, Cambodian activist.
Vancouver 2010: Bobby Orr, hockey superstar and one of the youngest Hockey Hall of Fame inductees in 1979 at age 31; Anne Murray, musician and the first Canadian female solo singer to top song charts in the USA; Jacques Villeneuve, F1 racer and the only Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500; Betty Fox, mother of the late cancer research activist Terry Fox; Donald Sutherland, actor and father of 24's star Kiefer; Barbara Ann Scott, Canada's only female figure skating gold medalist in 1948; Roméo Dallaire, retired general and leader of the ill-fated UN humanitarian mission to Rwanda; and Julie Payette, astronaut and member of the Discovery and Endeavour missions in 1999 and 2009, respectively.
London 2012: Doreen Lawrence, Jamaican-British writer and anti-racism activist ever since her son Stephen's race-related murder in 1993; Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopian runner, 1996-2000 10km gold medalist and advocate against poverty; Sally Becker, British author and humanitarian who saved children in Bosnia and Kosovo; Ban Ki-moon, South Korean diplomat and current Secretary-General of the United Nations; Leymah Gbowee, Liberian activist responsible for ending her nation's civil war in 2003; Shami Chakrabarti, British activist and current director of human rights group Liberty; Daniel Barenboim, Argentine-born Israeli conductor responsible for bringing Arab and Jewish youths together under his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra; and Marina Silva, Brazilian environmentalist and a United Nations Champion of the Earth; the eight were briefly joined by Muhammad Ali, now a frail 70-year-old and supported by his wife Lori.
Always Male: Gradually being averted as women's sports are being added, including boxing in 2012 and ski jumping (finally) in 2014. Greco-Roman wrestling is one of the events still for men only.
Also some more conservative Muslim countries. Notably in 2012, Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar broke their streak and fielded women for the first time, contributing to every delegation having both male and female athletes. Only time will tell whether this will continue.
It will. IOC announced that nations who forbid women from competing in the Olympics are subject to being barred from participation altogether.
The conclusion for the opening ceremonies at Lillehammer in '94 featured a gigantic egg which became an Earth globe and hatched a glittering dove, as thousands of silver dove-shaped balloons were released.
Munich '72 had 'The Flying Rainbow' (or 'The Olympic Rainbow') at the closing ceremonies. This was a piece of installation art created by Otto Piene. It had five helium-filled polythene tubes in the Olympic colors, each one 600 meters (almost two thousand feet) long. Piene has installed different versions of these lovely things all over the world.
You can pretty much count on this to happen in most every opening ceremony.
Awesome, but Impractical: You could argue that much of the architecture created to host Olympic events falls into this category, as there are few sporting events other than the Olympics that draw enough spectators to merit such enormous stadia; many Olympic facilities lay neglected or falling into ruin all over the world. The Beijing stadium hasn't had any real tenants since the Olympics, although it has hosted several recent Supercoppa Italiana games (a pre-season soccer game between the champions of Italy's Serie A league and Coppa Italia tournament), will be hosting the 2015 World Championships in Athletics, and will also be the anchor for new retail and entertainment facilities, and was even used as a winter amusement park!.
London is determined to avert this fate, with the London stadium designed in such a way that it can easily be converted into a more practical 25,000 capacity stadium once the games are over, but only time will tell how successful their approach will be.
The Men's Marathon medal ceremony is given pride of place during the closing ceremonies.
Badass Grandpa: Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who won his first Olympic gold medal at the age of 60. He competed at three Olympics (1908, 1912 and 1920) and won his last medal (a silver) when he was 72 years old. Swahn still holds the record as the oldest Olympic gold medallist (64 years old) and the oldest Olympic medallist of all time.
Be Careful What You Say: Especially on Twitter. Early in the 2012 Games, three athletes were singled out for controversial and/or racist tweets. Two of those athletes were summarily expelled from the Games.
Best X Ever: Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had a tradition of saying "This was the best Olympics ever!" at the end of each closing ceremony (with the exception of the Atlanta 1996 games, which, as mentioned above, were marred by security and other organisation problems).
Big Applesauce: As seen above, New York City has never hosted the Olympics though virtually every other city of its stature has. Rumor has it that New York was all but guaranteed the 2012 Games if they approved funding for the West Side Stadium, but when that fell through - so did the bid.
Broke The Rating Scale: Nadia Comăneci scored the first 10.0 in gymnastics history. The electronic scoreboard didn't even have that — you would've thought the poor girl kept scoring 1.0's. (To hammer this point home, no one had ever hit the elusive "perfect ten" in competition, ever. Out of eight routines, seven of Nadia's were scored as perfect tens. By the time she was through, the sport of gymnastics had been forever changed.)
Brooklyn Rage: Native New Yorker Teddy Atlas is NBC's primary color commentator for boxing. In the 2012 games, he repeatedly blasted the judges for "ridiculous" decisions that were turning the sport into a "joke." Indeed, the apex of this came in the fight between Azerbaijan's Abdulhamidov and Japan's Shimuzu, where the former was knocked six times in the final round without ever receiving a standing count.note Azerbaijan was caught red-handed by English newspapers in a Pay-for-Gold Medals scheme mere weeks before the games, adding to this. Teddy was so infuriated when Abdulhamidov won that he continued railing on the judges all throughout the subsequent fights, to the point where Atlas and his partner were asked to leave the ringside because they were disturbing the judges.
Canon Discontinuity: The games displayed art competitions complete with medals from 1912 to 1948. Today, the IOC considers them unofficial.
Clothes Make the Superman: The rollout of "Sharkskin" swimsuits in the 2000 games was hugely controversial - they used technology which dramatically reduced water resistance and several world records were shattered. They were also prohibitively expensive for small nations. In the 2008 Olympics, they were rendered absolutely obsolete by swimsuits featuring polyurethane panels, which caused pretty much every record to be completely shattered. As of 2012's Olympics, all non-porous suits (the polyurethane ones) were banned, and it was easy to tell, as far fewer than usual records were broken.
Cold War: It's widely stated that the Olympics were a suitable replacement for the lack of actual battles between the capitalist West and the communist East. Bonus for boycotts in the Moscow and Los Angeles Games. Even now, 20 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, judges' scoring can still reflect Cold War loyalties.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: When the athletes don't wear the national colors (see Wearing a Flag on Your Head), they will use different ones - red and blue for boxing and wrestling, white and blue for judo. Subverted in fencing, where both wear white (but the piste lights up green or red when a fencer makes contact).
Completely Missing the Point / Serious Business: The Medal Count. Officially, the IOC does not recognize a ranking of participating countries at the Olympic Games; mainly because the games are supposed to be about the best athletes, not the best countries, although they publish medal tables for informational purposes, showing the total number of medals earned by athletes representing each country. Regardless, many still consider it official and take it very seriously.
Even worse, there is a medal count controversy about what medal count table to use. The IOC and most countries use gold first ranking system while the US and Canada use the total medal count. The difference in ranking system received scant notice, since in most Olympics, the country that led in total medals also led in the gold count. However in 2008, China and the U.S. bucked this trend, topping the gold and total medal tallies respectively. China largely sided with using the less common American standard to judge their performance from the start of the games onwards, and thus felt they came in second to the Americans despite winning a whopping 15 more gold medals. This happened again in 2010, although with Canada in place of China. Critics and Anti-Americanists (even some gloating Canadians when they won the gold medal count, even though they also use the total medal table) accused the US of spinning the medal count, even though the Americans have used the Overall Medal Count for years. Even Jacques Rogge had to step in say that the medal counts are unofficial.
Australians like to boast that their 1896 Olympic team was the most successful ever, with every team member winning two gold medals. This is true, in a Mathematician's Answer kind of way: Australia's team that year consisted of a runner named Edwin Flack.
Conspicuous CG: The Beijing opening ceremonies featured mostly computer-generated fireworks, since there were helicopters hovering above.
Crack Defeat: The 1988 games provided a former Trope Namer from boxing: Roy Jones, Jr. was controversially beaten by Si-Hun Park by decision in a gold medal bout that saw Jones dominate his South Korean opponent.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Many, though the 1992 "Dream Team" US Men's basketball team has to stand out for crushing all its opponents by more than 30 points.
At the 2012 Olympics just prior to the Mens 100m final one happened in the stands when a drunk spectator threw a bottle at the competitors. Said spectator just so happened to be sitting beside a Dutch Olympian called Edith Bosch who had won bronze for her nation in the 70kg Judo, her twitter feed later stated "A drunken spectator threw a bottle onto the track! I HAVE BEATEN HIM .... unbelieveable". While Sebastian Coe said "I think the expression is Ippon"
Also, when Grindr crashed as soon as the delegations arrived. Some say it was just because Grindr tends to crash every now and then, or that it was because of the crowd that came in, but one can’t help but wonder...
There's an American in Afghanistan who wants to build up a water polo team in time for the 2016 games. More here. There's also a women's boxing team preparing for 2012, but there's no problem because they can wear head coverings in the ring.
American runner Lopez Lomong, who was abducted as a young child in Sudan and forced to become a Child Soldier. After seeing dozens of other children die in the training camp, Lopez and some of his friends escaped under the cover of darkness, running almost nonstop for 3 days and nights until they crossed the Kenyan border. His Olympic ability to run literally saved his life.
Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto: he competed in the 1976 Olympics and helped his team winning the gold, with a broken knee. He injured himself during a floor exercise and fearing that the team would not win if he withdrew, hid his injury and competed his final two events of the day. On rings, Fujimoto scored a 9.7, after landing his full-twisting double back dismount onto a broken kneecap...
Tanzanian athlete John Stephen Akhwari fell and disclocated his knee while running the marathon at the 1968 Olympics. After receiving medical attention, Akhwari decided to finish the race, limping into the Olympic stadium long after the other competitors had finished. When asked why he had decided to continue running, Akhwari replied: "My country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me to finish the race."
American runner Manteo Mitchell broke his leg halfway through running the first leg of the 4x400m relay semi-final at the 2012 games. Not only did he keep running and finish his leg, he helped his team qualify for the final with the fastest time.
Dark Horse Victory: Plenty to choose from, but the 1992 Olympics provided the former Trope Namer in Robert Zmelik of Czechoslovakia, who won the decathlon...after American audiences had been treated to an ad campaign hyping "Dan (O'Brien, who eventually didn't qualify) vs. Dave (Johnson, who took the bronze)."
Every Year They Fizzle Out: A few teams and athletes have every title except the Olympic Gold (most notably the Brazilian football and the Italian volleyball).
Brazil's soccer performance in London is especially notable because everyone was treating it as a foregone conclusion; Brazil are hosting both the next World Cup and Olympic Games, they pretty much coasted to the final and everyone, Brazil foremost amongst them, just assumed that the final would basically amount to a Brazilian masterclass in football. This sense of smug superiority lasted about 40 seconds, the time it took Mexico to score the first of 2 goals that would go unanswered by Brazil. In the end everyone felt the Mexicans were the better team on the day.
Executive Meddling: Everyone thought the Centennial Games would be where the games originated, Athens. While Greece was lacking infrastructure at the time, the Atlanta bidding committee won mostly from being... "helpful".
The Scapegoat: Coca-Cola, the IOC sponsor headquartered in Atlanta, denied helping the bid. The Greeks still retaliated by breaking bottles of Coke, draining it down the sewers, and stopping consumption in a way it would take years to recover.
Fanservice: It's basically 2 weeks of people in peak physical condition (well except that one Judoka from Guam) getting hot and sweaty so what's not to like, especially for Amazon Chasers.
Female track and field uniforms in recent years have started tending towards the Stripperific, with lots of Bare Your Midriff in effect. Some male competitors have taken to ripping their own shirts off in celebration of victory. So you basically have a lot of people built like Greek deities showing a lot of hot sweaty flesh off on camera.
Handicapped Badass: Aside from competitors in the Paralympics, there are also some examples from the Olympic Games, e.g. legally blind Im Dong-hyun's record-breaking archery score.
South African runner Oscar "The Blade Runner" Pistorius wants to be the first double-amputee Olympic athlete in 2012. His attempt to get into the Beijing Olympics were thwarted by the idea that his blade-like running legs gave him an advantage (they don't since they're not robotic according to a prosthetic scientist (who does have robotic legs) featured in Oscar's 60 Minutes profile).
Hungarian shooter Károly Takács- after his shooting hand (his right) was mangled in a grenade accident during army training, Takács secretly learned how to shoot with his left hand and proceeded to win gold in the 25m rapid fire pistol event twice in a row (at London 1948 and Helsinki 1952).
Another Hungarian, Oliver Halassy, won two golds and one silver (1928, 1932 and 1936) despite his left leg being amputated below the knee.
And the earliest case, American gymnast George Eyser, who had a wooden leg, and won six medals (half of them golden) at St. Louis 1904 Summer Olympics.
He-Man Woman Hater: Kinda... Pierre de Coubertin left the IOC because he thought female athletes were a betrayal to the Olympic ideal (the Ancient Greece games had only men).
Take That: In Sydney 2000, the Olympic Torch ran its last stage by seven of Australia's most successful female athletes (also a tribute to a hundred years of women's participation in the Games)... four-time gold-medalist runner Betty Cuthbert (in a wheelchair pushed by fellow runner, three-time silver-medalist runner Raelene Boyle), eight-medal swimmer Dawn Fraser, seven-medal runner Shirley Strickland, 1972 five-time medalist swimmer Shane Gould and 1988 gold-winning hurdler Debbie Flintoff-King... before handing it off to 1996 silver-medal runner Cathy Freeman (notable for being of Aboriginal decent) as a women's chorus sang. If there is such a thing as a Crowning Moment of Goddessness, this was it. Freeman herself would win her gold during these Games.
London 2012 marked the first time that all the participating countries sent at least one female athlete.
Heterosexual Life Partners: Sports that have doubles versions* other than mixed doubles tennis, of course have this on lock, but certainly the most iconic pair in recent years are three-time beach volleyball gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. To the point where Kerri said without a hint of self-consciousness that she is absolutely "married to Misty".
Home Field Advantage: It's been noted that the host country often earns more medals than in Games where they're not hosting. The stats thrown around during London 2012 is that the host's medal haul goes up by 50%.
There is also an unambiguous set of advantages that home nations get in being able to put teams and competitors into every single sport and event, meaning they will usually field a disproportionately large contingent of athletes.
Subverted by Canada in 1976, who became the first host nation to finish the games without any gold medals.
I Call It Vera: Paralympian Hannah Cockroft calls her wheelchair Sally.
Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee sprinter running in the 2012 Olympics men's 400m was eliminated in the semi-finals. He regardless became a headline because of his disability. At least...
Broken Pedestal: ...until he was accused of killing his girlfriend. Whether he really did it or not, or if it was accidental or not if he did, the episode became a huge black stain on his reputation.
Misplaced Nationalism: Nationalism is quite a serious matter when it comes to the Olympics. Rooting for your countrymen can be subject to you being trolled on the internet, especially if you root for a high medal nation like the United States or China.
The Europe and North American-dominated winter Olympics are slowly becoming this, with a skier from Africa (nicknamed "The Snow Leopard"), a French male figure skater who was born in South America, African-American speed skater Shani Davis, Japanese-American figure skater Mirai Nagasu, a Japanese pairs skater who defected to Russia (Japan is more focused on individual skaters, not pairs), a trio of half-Japanese-half-Caucasian siblings ice dancing for Japan and Georgia, Cheltzie Lee — a half-Chinese-half-African-American female figure skater from Australia, and quite a few African-born Germans in the 2010 Vancouver games. Past games included the famous Jamaican Bobsled Team, a female African-American bobsledder, Japanese-American ice-skater (and fellow Dancing With The Stars champion, along with Anton Apolo Ohno)) Kristi Yamaguchi, Chinese-American ice skater Michelle Kwan, and French-African figure skater Surya Bonaly, who did impressive (but illegal and non-point-earning) one-legged back-flips in her performances.
The Soviet teams were always multinational, as they consisted of athletes from formerly sovereign nations that had been absorbed into the Soviet Union. The Unified Team of the 1992 Olympics are perhaps the best example, as it was exactly what it sounded like: the combined athletes of all the former Soviet Socialist Republics that had gained independence being allowed to compete together one last time after the fall of the Soviet Union, since none of these countries (asides from perhaps Russia) had been able to set up their own Olympic committees. The former Yugoslavia is another excellent example.
The Independent Olympic Athletes - A team that consists of athletes with no state to call home, or from states that don't have a recognised National Olympics Committee. By its nature it's made up of athletes from all over the more troubled parts of the world.
Old Media Playing Catch Up: NBC's US Olympic Coverage is often Live But Delayed by many, many hours (around 16 hours for the Beijing opening ceremonies) until the American prime time where the most advertising dollars are. NBC has persuaded the International Olympic Committee to schedule more popular events live at times more acceptable to American primetime schedules to avoid spoilers, but even then, the network still screws the West Coast by delaying it by three hours anyway, with very few exceptions. As of the London 2012 Games, they now stream events live online (albiet with extreme amounts of ads and lots and lots of buffering), but there are still enough issues that "#nbcfail" became a rather popular Twitter tag that year.
The big events aren't shown live; they're instead saved for the primetime package. This was even done for the Vancouver 2010 games, where there was little to no time zone difference. On top of that, said package tends to spread events out over the entire airing; they show the performances of those with lower ranks at 7:00, and don't show the medal contenders until a couple minutes before midnight. In events like ice skating where one athlete goes at a time, if you want to watch others, you have to stay in front of your television for 5 hours and HOPE that in between the commercials, other sports, and random garbage, NBC was nice enough to include non-Americans. NOT. FUN.
The opening and closing ceremonies have their own issues. For one, having them covered like a news or sports event rather than just turning the cameras on and letting the show unfold. With London 2012's opening ceremony, NBC defended themselves by saying that such a show needed "context", but the commentators were... not particularly helpful, let's say. Also, in both the 2010 and 2012 closing ceremonies, they cut away from the show for both news (OK, that's understandable) and a special debut of a new series, picking up the ceremony again an hour later. The 2012 opening ceremonies also edited out a performance of the hymn "Abide With Me" in favor of an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps; NBC denied knowing the segment was a tribute to the people who died in the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, but they cut it anyway as unsuitable for American audiences. Meanwhile, that year's closing ceremony had nearly an hour edited out for time, which was especially egregious since the broadcast started with a good hour of time used for a retrospective before airing the ceremony proper.
On top of that, NBC has absolutely no live coverage of the Paralympics. All we're getting is five highlight shows, along with a 90-minute retrospective... which will air a week after the closing ceremonies.
On the other side of the pond, however, The BBC managed to completely and utterly avert this trope with comprehensive coverage (they set up a temporary channel for every sport!) web streaming, a top notch web site and more. Apparently people from over the world were trying to find ways around the iPlayer region lockouts because the BBC coverage was just so much better than what was being shown in other countries. The effort and slick execution put into their coverage has rightly earned Auntie huge praise.
Only a Flesh Wound: Athletes have competed and won medals with injuries that would leave them perfectly justified in curling up into whimpering balls of pain.
Gymnast Kerri Strug was the last gymnast to vault on the American team rotation in the 1996 Atlanta Games. She was following up a two-fall showing by Dominique Moceanu — and she proceeded to fall on her rear on her first vault, injuring her leg. Well, Kerri wasn't about to stand for that. Despite injuring her ankle on her first vault, she calmly walked back to the end of the runway, vaulted again, and stuck her landing on one foot because her ankle had third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage. Her courageous vault sealed the first US women's team gold in Olympic history.
At the 2010 Olympics, Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic takes a brutal spill in practice, falling about ten feet down a hill into a gully. She comes out for the qualifying run and qualifies collapsing in pain and unable to stand after. After returning from x-rays at the hospital, she wins her quarterfinal, then gets a lucky loser spot in the semis to qualify for the final, all in abject agony. Four races, five broken ribs, and one pneumothorax later, she came out of it all with a bronze medal.
In the 2006 Turin Olympics, Chinese figure skater Zhang Dan fell while attempting a quadruple salchow jump during the free skate program, injuring her leg as a result. But her and her partner Zhang Hao decided to continue the program and they had enough points to finish with a silver medal.
In the 2012 men's 4x400 relay, Manteo Mitchell was halfway through his 400 meter lap when he literally heard his left leg bone snap in half. He still managed to finish the last half of his leg in a good enough time for the US relay team to qualify for the finals.
Opposing Sports Team / Designated Villain: Team USA. While some of America's athletes are still rooted on and gain a fandom from other countries, not many become too pleased when the US wins the Gold Medal Count...but rejoice if they reach second or less in the gold medal count. And then there's the overall vs gold debate like was mentioned above. It is not uncommon; and pretty ironic, to see this hatedom root for another "superpower" like China or Russia just to see the US lose.
An older sports writer commented on this after the 1984 Los Angeles games. He said the U.S. attitude had been that of a bullying child who was bigger than all the other kids, winning all the prizes at its own birthday party and then prancing around crowing "I won, I won!"
Part of the attitude is caused by the fact that who wins or loses is not just based on athletes' "heart" or "will to win" but on resources. In the superpower nations, billions are devoted to the care and training of athletes. A runner from Honduras may have just as much Olympic spirit as one from the U.S., but the U.S. one has the advantage of better nutrition, superior coaching and training areas, and can devote all her time to practicing, while the Honduras one just doesn't have that kind of infrastructure. When Honduras does win, it becomes a Take That.
A classic example would be Usain Bolt's (and Jamaica overall) phenomenal performance in Beijing, where numerous commentators simply could not comprehend that someone from a "tiny, poor nation with a population of only 2.5 million" (something repeated ad nauseum) could pull this off without the resources that a US athlete had.
For Americans themselves, it's currently China that gets this treatment a lot. While China and the United States tend to be strong in fairly different sports, where they DO actually compete on even footing head-to-head you can expect something to eventually be made of China's harsh methods of raising and training its athletes and/or accusations of doping or underage performers to fly.
Not to mention that The Soviet Union and The U.S.A. were this to each other for decades, and it shaped both of their sporting cultures for the better part of the 20th Century. Even in retrospectives recapping significant events from the Olympic games of the past, the narration will often talk about it almost exactly as if it is a sports movie. The Soviet Union and particularly East Germany were (and in retrospect to past Olympics still are) often also regarded in this light in a number of other Western bloc countries due to very well documented steroid abuse programs that they were running at the time.
Overshadowed by Awesome: At the Los Angeles 1984 Games, the US men's gymnastics team won gold. Nobody cared, because Mary Lou Retton won the individual all-around (a US first) over her Romanian rival Ekaterina Szabo by scoring perfect tens on floor and vault. Sorry, guys!
Passing the Torch: The Olympic Torch Relay is the Ur Example and Trope Namer, though unlike our trope definition it usually isn't explicitly passed from an older to a younger generation. The closing ceremonies' traditional handoff from the current host city to the next one also qualifies.
Two places the generational part was invoked were in Tokyo 1964 and London 2012, both of which had the final runners to receive their torches be young athletes. Tokyo had a 19-year-old runner who was born on the day of the Hiroshima bombings, and London had seven teen athletes nominated by veteran Olympians.
Pintsized Powerhouse: In events with weight classes, the lighter competitors are this. For instance, the women's weightlifting can have 5-foot tall women hoisting more than double their weight over their heads and making it look easy.
Female gymnasts. Most barely break five feet tall, if that. And yet they manage to fling themselves around, over, and through heavy objects with strength that would make a Green Beret proud.
Pregnant Badass: At least four pregnant women have competed in the Olympics. The most recent of them, Malaysian shooting champion Nur Suryani Mohamed Tahibi, competed in the London 2012 Olympics while eight months pregnant. It can now be said that at least one woman has won a gold medal while pregnant (albeit very, very early pregnancy). Only after the event did fans learn that beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings had been five weeks pregnant during the 2012 London Games. She and partner Misty May-Treanor won gold for the third consecutive Summer Olympics.
Pretentious Latin Motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, meaning "Faster, Higher, Stronger." It was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894 with the founding of the International Olympic Committee and was introduced in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. De Coubertin got the inspiration from his fellow atheltics enthusiast Henri Didon.
Product Placement / Product Displacement: While the Olympics themselves are an increasingly commercial affair, athletes are forbidden from wearing any logos other than their own country's and the equipment manufacturers' trademark. In fact, until fairly recently you couldn't show the trademark, either. Jean-Claude Killy raised considerable controversy in 1968 by failing to hide the Head mark on his skis in post-competition photos. Some people still believe he was paid.
Several members of the USA Men's Basketball 1992 "Dream Team" (the first with all professional players) came out for the medal ceremony draped in American Flags. This was to cover up the Reebok sponsor's logo on their official Olympics warmup suits; they had exclusive contracts with Nike or Converse to only wear items with their logo on it, but couldn't not wear the official garments.
Similarly, the Brazilian Olympic Committee was sponsored by local brand Olympikus, but the soccer confederation is sponsored by Nike, needing deals to use Nike apparel. Then Nike became the NOC sponsor, but 8 other brands were seen among the 2012 delegation (i.e. Olympikus for volleyball, Asics for handball).
It gets a little weird with the snowboarders since the logos on the undersides of their board are gigantic compared to tiny Nike swooshes and Adidas "leaves".
In recent years, the organizing committees have gone to great lengths to ensure that there are no references to any non-sponsor in and around venues. These range from the typical "rename the venue for the duration of the Games" situations (i.e. GM Place becoming "Canada Hockey Place"), to even putting tape over the logos on bathroom fixtures.
Even worse is their campaign against ambush marketing; for the 2012 Olympics, there is a very strict law criminalizing non-sponsors creating an "association" with the games in order to "protect" official sponsors. This means a special form of trademark protection during the games to any individual words and imagery relating to the games (Don't you dare mention "London" and "2012" in the same sentence. Or even "sports" for that matter). And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse; they even have special "brand police" too! (This gets funny when you factor in their issues with getting enough actual security.) On a side note, the restaurant chain Little Chef is still able to offer its Olympic Breakfast (on its menu since 1994) owing to a Grandfather Clause.
Sponsor exclusivity got frighteningly pervasive in London—nobody was allowed to sell chips in the Olympic zones except for McDonald's (an IOC sponsor), to the fury of Londoners (and Britons in general, in sympathy). The rule did permit chips to be sold as part of fish and chips...but as any Brit can tell you:
Indignant Englishman: But what if I want sausages and chips? Or a pie and chips? Or a greasy chip butty?
The Rival/Fandom Rivalry: Rivalries are huge in sports, and the Olympics are no exception. Some notables include USA vs. the Soviet Union, USA vs. Russia, USA vs. China, USA vs. Canada, Norway vs. Sweden, Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding, Maria Riesch vs. Lindsey Vonn, any Korean Speedskater vs. Apolo Anton Ohno, etc...
And prior to that her mother, Princess Anne, the Queen's daughter competed as a member of the British Equestrian Team in the 1976 Olympics.
Another one in the equestrian is HRH Prince Abdullah al-Saud; grandson of the King of Saudi Arabia, and Olympic bronze medallist.
Sadistic Choice: For Muslim athletes: Honor the fast of Ramadan (where even water is forbidden during the day) or compete in the Olympics? Some do both, others will fast after the games (there are good authorities supporting both opinions).
While the Summer Olympics overlapping with Ramadan is rarely pleasant, this was particularly exacerbated in 2012 by London's extreme northerly latitude (51 degrees north),note And then the Egyptian men's football team had to play a game in Glasgow (55 degrees north) on 1 August... which is high enough that daylight—and thus the fast—lasts just under 16 hours at the height of summer (i.e. when the games are held). For Muslim Britons, this has caused a measure of Fantastic Religious Weirdness—many fast shortened hours (typically a 12-hour fast regardless of sunrise or sunset). As for the athletes....
Second Place Is For Winners: Subverted in the 2012 games, when several women's badminton teams were ejected from the contest entirely for throwing matches to earn an easier opponent in the second round. Played straight the same year, when the Japanese women's soccer team played for a draw to trade a tougher seed in the next match but avoid a 300 mile trip to Glasgow. And It Worked: They defeated Brazil 2-0.
At times, Third Place Is For Winners (despite many considering the bronze a Consolation Award, their winners are usually much happier for just winning something!). See Tom Daley's reaction after winning a bronze in the 10m platform!
Sigil Spam: The Olympic Rings logo gets put everywhere. Also the participating countries' national flags.
Special Guest: Opening and closing ceremonies usually include appearances by celebrities and other iconic people from the host country. London 2012's opening ceremonies even included three fictional British icons, James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) and Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) and, indirectly, Doctor Whonote the TARDIS is heard during the 1970s montage, to the line "We gotta get outta this place" — and one of the decorative sets (not an actual jump) in the equestrian events was a red police call box sitting next to a park bench..
Sore Loser: Perhaps the most notorious example in Olympic history comes from the 2008 Beijing games, where Taekwondo competitor Angel Matos kicked a referee after losing his gold medal bout. He was banned for life for this incident, even though many felt he had legitimate grievances with the standard of refereeing of the match.
Suspiciously Apropos Music: In the 2012 opening ceremony, at the parade of nations, several contemporary hits were playing through the PA. When the UK athletes enter (as the host nation, they are the last to enter), what does the PA play? ""Heroes"". Followed up by "Galvanize" again. Given that Danny Boyle was the London 2012 artistic director, all the music used was highly thematic. ""Heroes"" was played whenever a Team GB athlete achieved gold. Also, the Chariots of Fire music was played during all medal ceremonies, after being prominently featured in the opening ceremony.
Also at the 2012 opening ceremony, Fiji marched out to... The Bee Gees!
Take a Third Option: The International Wushu Federation pushed for the inclusion of the sport for the 2008 Beijing games. Instead of including it officially (which would mean a lot of work) or rejecting it outright, the IOC allowed the organizing committee to organize a tournament in parallel with the games.
Training from Hell: All of the athletes must undergo some form of this to be in peak condition for the sporting events.
Turn Coat: It's not rare to see someone abandoning its native country for an Olympic spot (e.g. the 2008 male beach volleyball bronze medal match was between a Brazilian team and a Georgian team... composed of Brazilians!note using the names "Geor"/"Gia").
Inverted in 2008, when NBA superstar Yao Ming played for his native China.
Also in 2008, Uzbek gymnast Oksana Chusovitina, having moved to Germany to procure medical care for her son's leukemia and obtaining German citizenship, competed for her adopted nation.
The Unexpected: Any time an outsider invades the field, such as a streaker in a football game in 2000, and a crazed priest who pushed the Brazilian who lead the 2004 marathon to the sidewalk (where a huge Greek then helped him get free), probably costing him the gold medal - he ended with a bronze.
The Bloodbath of Melbourne in the 1956 water polo tournament between Hungary and the Soviet Union, who had invaded Hungary weeks before.
Un Installment: Given "Olympiad" is the four year gap, the Games which didn't happen because of the World Wars still count.
Wearing a Flag on Your Head: While not true of every country, many national teams will dress their athletes in very flag-like colors or motifs. Team USA wears a lot of stars, Team Canada wears a lot of maple leaves, etc., etc.
The 2012 Team GB uniforms across most sports have a very prominent Union Jack motif (except it's in shades of blue and the only red is in the emblem).
Averted by Australia: Australian athletes wear mostly green and gold, Australia's national colours, but these colours appear nowhere on the Australian flag (which is blue, red and white). This is because, instead of the flag, they choose to honor their national flower, the Golden Wattle.
Similarly New Zealand (whose flag looks very similar to Australia aside from a different constellation of red stars) prefer to wear their national colours of black and silver instead. Black comes form the national rugby union team, the All Blacks, and the silver comes from the silver fern (Cyathea dealbata), the national "flower". The New Zealand association football (soccer) teams buck the trend and wear white, because black uniforms were originally reserved for referees.
Similarly averted by the Netherlands: They were predominantly orange despite the Dutch flag being a standard red-white-blue tricolour. Mainly because the Dutch monarchy's official color is orange, and the royal family is, rather appropriately, called "Orange".
Another aversion is Italy, which usually wears blue for the same reason as the Netherlands wearing orange, to honor their monarchy - even though Italy's been a republic for quite a long time now. German athletes may sometimes wear white (because the pre-Nazi German flag had the color along with black and red; the gold replaced it after the fall of the Nazis).
And South Africa presents a subversion: its flag has six colors, but the representing colors are two: green and yellow.
In fencing, wearing the your flag on your face mask seems somewhat popular, and most nations have their flag on one of their legs.
Wham Episode: Muhammad Ali's appearance at the 1996 Games' Opening Ceremony saw him racked by advanced Parkinson's disease due to the head trauma of his boxing career. This so shocked America that it is considered one of the major turning points in the popularity of the entire sport.
Worst News Judgment Ever: Part of the NBCFail; they like to include extra stories related to either the host country or some aspect of the Games themselves, but sometimes it gets out of hand when viewers just want to see the events. For example, in London 2012: a five-minute or less bit on something related to James Bond? Okay, fine. A half-hour feature on the '92 basketball Dream Team one night and a full-hour feature on Britain in World War II the next? Not fine.