The fight for the 1964 Republican nomination was almost a preview of the 1972 Democratic campaign (minus sabotage by the other party). In comparison, the general election (in which Lyndon Johnson won reelection in a landslide) was positively anticlimactic.
Essentially, the race pitted Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, leader of the GOP's emerging conservative base, against the Republican establishment, still moderate-to-liberal on most issues. Problem is that the establishment had no viable candidate to oppose Goldwater. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller was Goldwater's early rival, but Rockefeller's remarriage to a much younger divorcee sabotaged his chances. (Specifically, Happy Rockefeller gave birth right before the crucial California primary, spotlighting the controversy and tipping that state into Goldwater's column.) Henry Cabot Lodge, Ambassador to South Vietnam, won several early primaries through a write-in campaign; Lodge never left Vietnam and didn't openly declare his candidacy, so his campaign fizzled out. George Romney, Governor of Michigan, refused entreaties to run. Richard Nixon hovered around the campaign's fringes, hoping for a draft movement that never materialized.
Dwight Eisenhower (who distrusted Goldwater) repeatedly encouraged William Scranton, the popular Governor of Pennsylvania, to run. Scranton initially refused, but reconsidered after Goldwater essentially sewed up the nomination by winning California. Scranton planned to announce his candidacy on CBS's Face the Nation, only for Eisenhower to undercut him days before by announcing he would oppose any "Stop Goldwater" movement. After Eisenhower's about-face, Scranton's interview was a disaster, saying he'd be open to a draft but not declaring an open candidacy. Scranton, previously lauded as the "Republican Kennedy," became derided as the "Harrisburg Hamlet" and "Gutless Bill."
All this was prelude to the July convention in San Francisco. A last effort to boost Rockefeller or Scranton over Goldwater faltered, but not before generating bad blood on both sides. This inevitably spilled onto the convention floor. Rockefeller introduced a plank repudiating extremism, only for Goldwater partisans to boo him for minutes on end. Scranton released a public letter labeling Goldwater a dangerous extremist. Goldwater responded with a defiant acceptance speech, declaring "Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice! Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!" Then he named equally conservative William Miller as his running mate. That upwards of 40,000 Civil Rights protestors picketed the convention drew little attention compared to the drama in the Cow Palace. The convention was so disastrous that Johnson's campaign cut an ad consisting entirely of quotes by Rockefeller, Romney and Scranton.
Goldwater's defeat to Johnson was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Through speeches and attack ads Johnson painted Goldwater an extremist, not helped by the candidate's controversial stances on civil rights and nuclear weapons, and propensity for off-the-cuff remarks. Many prominent Republicans refused to endorse Goldwater or campaign on his behalf (Nixon being a conspicuous exception). Goldwater's campaign did, however, lay the groundwork for the conservative takeover of the GOP. Among its other achievements, it hastened Republican penetration into the South and made Ronald Reagan a national political figure through an effective campaign speech.
After 1968, McGovern had chaired a commission to reform the nomination process. One thing he wanted was to have the Democratic primaries award delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all. Some states had done this on their own; others had not. One that didn't was California, with the most delegates of all, which at the time held its primary last. McGovern, who had won primaries and conventions with grass-roots support, often over the establishment favorites like Edmund Muskie, won that one, technically locking up the nomination. But the party establishment, still smarting over the fact that he had won, often not only refused to endorse him but in some cases filed lawsuits to prevent his delegates from being seated. Some of them argued that he should have released his California delegates proportionally to other candidates, as he himself had advocated. The suits dominated the news until the convention, a huge (and expensive) distraction he didn't need.
And then there was the convention itself. While there was no civil unrest outside the building in Miami Beach as there had been in Chicago four years prior, the Democrats might have wished there was. McGovern's campaign had been propelled by young, left-wing activists, the same hippies and students who had formed the defining image of the 1968 Chicago convention, while advocates for gay rights, a very new and radical cause at the time, were getting some air and ink. This complicated matters for large sections of the Democratic base, particularly the blue-collar — and often devoutly Catholic — labor activists that formed a good chunk of the party's Northern (especially Midwestern) support, as well as what was left of the party's white Southern wing. An unnamed Democrat (revealed, ironically enough years later, to have been none other than Thomas Eagleton, McGovern's eventual running mate) gave the Republicans a better attack line than any they could have come up with themselves when he fretted to Rowland Evans and Robert Novak — who promptly used the quote — that the Democrats were in danger of becoming the party of "acid, amnesty, and abortion." The breaking point in the divide between the New Left and the Democrats' old working-class base was when George Meany, the head of the AFL-CIO (America's most powerful labor union), refused to endorse McGovern, calling him "an apologist for the communist world." Without the support of the unions, one of the Democrats' key constituencies, McGovern stood little chance in the general election.
Furthermore, the aftermath of the lawsuits over the primaries resulted in a drawn-out nomination vote. McGovern didn't even begin delivering his all-important acceptance speech until well after midnight Eastern time. It's no surprise that the amount of potential drama at both parties' conventions has been consciously and predictably reduced to near zero since this one.
Even after the convention, McGovern's woes weren't over. Remember Thomas Eagleton, McGovern's initial running mate? Well, he turned out to be suffering from clinical depression, and was on Thorazine and had once received electroshock therapy for it. Compounding matters was the fact that McGovern initially hesitated to drop Eagleton from the ticket, as his own daughter Teresa suffered from depression and he was afraid that dropping Eagleton due to his psychiatric problems could possibly drive Teresa to suicide. The fact that Eagleton had not been properly vetted, as well as the McGovern campaign's slow reaction to the news when it did come out, caused outrage.
All of this contributed heavily to McGovern losing a 23-point landslide to Richard Nixon, rivaled in the postwar era only by Lyndon Johnson's crushing victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964. The Democrats were cast into the political wilderness for two decades, with their only President between 1972 and 1992 being Jimmy Carter — a moderate Southerner who rode into office chiefly on the backlash against the GOP from Watergate, and still only served one term. It wasn't until 1992 when Bill Clinton successfully rehabilitated the Democratic brand after McGovern's disaster of a campaign.
Walter Mondale's 1984 Presidential campaign against the popular incumbent Ronald Reagan was treated as a lost cause by just about everybody in the Democratic Party, Mondale included. And it showed.
For starters, the primary race between Mondale and Colorado Senator Gary Hart was one of the closest in recent history. While Mondale was an old-school New Dealer from Minnesota running on a liberal platform, Hart was an early example of the centrist "New Democrats" that would take power under Bill Clinton eight years later. Hart fought a fierce primary campaign that criticized Mondale as adhering to the failed, outdated policies that had produced the malaise of The Seventies, and he won several key primaries, including New Hampshire, Ohio, California, and many Western states. Mondale responded by attacking Hart's "New Ideas" platform as being poorly-explained and not standing for much in particular; his use of the fast-food chain Wendy's' advertising slogan "where's the beef?" to criticize Hart's policies during a debate became a Memetic Mutation. While Mondale ultimately won, the 1984 Democratic primary was the last to go all the way to a brokered convention, indicating that many Democrats were not enthusiastic about Mondale.
For the general election, Mondale didn't even try to run an effective campaign, sensing early on that he stood no chance against Reagan and that 1984 would be, at best, a "rebuilding year" for the Democrats. To this end, he made no effort to "balance" the ticket with a running mate who played to his strengths and shored up his weaknesses, instead hoping to make a splash by choosing a woman or a minority as his running mate and winning over female and minority voters for future elections. He ultimately chose Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York; she was not only female, but also the daughter of Italian immigrants who could play well to "ethnic" voters.
Mondale's choice of Ferraro as his running mate backfired. It did little to excite women, many of whom saw Mondale's selection of Ferraro as tokenism rather than choosing the best candidate for the job. Moreover, when Ferraro's husband was attacked for alleged links to The Mafia, Ferraro responded by releasing her tax returns. While doing so solved that problem, it only created a new one: it revealed that Ferraro had a maid and a few million dollars tied up in real estate, greatly undermining her "working-class immigrant's daughter" image.
Mondale lost a landslide comparable to McGovern in 1972 or Goldwater in '64, winning only Washington, DC and his home state of Minnesota (and the latter by less than four thousand votes). The old New Dealer wing of the Democratic Party was discredited and demoralized by Mondale's defeat, leading to move of the national party to the center in the late '80s. While Gary Hart's ambitions would be derailed by a sex scandal, Bill Clinton would successfully run on a similar platform in 1992.
In 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran for US President on an independent ticket with a platform of centrist, "tell it like it is" populism focusing on the national debt and economic protectionism, and was seen as the first third-party/independent candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 to have a serious shot at winning the whole thing. For a time in June, he even had a commanding lead in the polls, with 39% of Americans planning to vote for him. What happened next, though...
Around July, stories started leaking that Perot was something of a Control Freak when it came to micromanaging his campaign, including forcing volunteers to sign loyalty oaths. His campaign managers were growing increasingly disillusioned with the fact that Perot's "radical centrism" seemed to be an excuse for him to avoid taking serious stances on major issues. One of his two campaign managers, Hamilton Jordan, threatened to quit as Perot's poll numbers began sinking.
What really sank Perot, however, was his indulgence in conspiracy theories. Perot fired his advertising specialist, Hal Riney, on suspicion that he was secretly collaborating with George H.W. Bush and the CIA to undermine his campaign; this led his other campaign manager, Ed Rollins, to quit. Not long afterwards, Perot suspended his campaign, saying that Republican operatives were planning on releasing compromising photos of his daughter and disrupting her wedding. Many of Perot's supporters felt betrayed by his withdrawal, and while he did ultimately re-enter the race on October 1, his campaign never recovered. Between this and the reveal that he had carried out a private investigation of the Bush family in The Eighties, a new image of Perot as paranoid had emerged.
Despite a very strong showing at the debates that allowed him to make a partial comeback, Perot ultimately finished with just 19% of the popular vote, having won no states. (His greatest successes were in New England, the industrial Midwest, and the states west of the Mississippi, and he was largely a non-entity in much of the South.)
Ross Perot wasn't the only candidate with a chaotic campaign in 1992. In fact, the mistakes made by incumbent President George H.W. Bush were part of the reason why Perot was so initially successful in the first place.
Bush was damaged early with the focus in the election shifting from national security (a strength, but one that would not come up much with the end of the Cold War and the success of The Gulf War) to the economy (in the middle of a severe recession). Then, footage emerged of Bush getting sick and vomiting on the Japanese Prime Minister in early 1992, right at the beginning of having to fend off a primary challenge from conservative insurgent Pat Buchanan (a regular on CNN's Crossfire who had previously worked as a speechwriter under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan), who mainly attacked Bush for agreeing to a 1990 budget deal that led to Bush breaking his "Read my lips, no new taxes" pledge at the 1988 Republican National Convention. There was also a more ominous run by Louisiana State Representative, one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, and outspoken white supremacist David Duke, though his campaign was much less effective.
Bush then embarrassed himself with an incident where, during a speech prior to the New Hampshire primary, Bush (possibly reading a cue card by mistake) uttered the phrase "Message: I care". While Bush won the New Hampshire primary, Buchanan managed to get over 37% of the vote. While Buchanan's support stabilized at 30% in the remaining primaries, Bush was revealed as wounded and unpopular with Republicans, thus allowing for much of the base that would have supported him moving to Perot's campaign.
No sooner did Buchanan fade from the limelight then Vice-President Dan Quayle make headlines for all the wrong reasons. First was a late May speech in which Quayle's main focus on the importance of fathers (particularly in minority communities) ended up getting lost in a media furor over the use of a reference to the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown, whose title character had given birth out of wedlock during the season finale. Quayle then added fuel to the mockery with an incident in which he encouraged a young student named William Figueroa to add an "e" to the word "potato". The gaffe ended up adding insult to injury and resulted in rumors swirling that Quayle would be replaced.
As if those weren't problem enough for Team Bush's 1992 effort, internal strife on the campaign team led by pollster Bob Teeter would force the President to put longtime friend and Secretary of State James Baker in charge of the campaign, a move Baker made very reluctantly from his dream job.
The Republican Convention in Houston began with hopes of emphasizing the "family values" approach Quayle had attempted to communicate in what became known as the "Murphy Brown speech". As is often the case, a defeated rival candidate was allowed to speak on condition that they endorse the nominee. However, Buchanan delivered his "culture war" speech that led to much criticism and ended up overshadowing speeches by former President Reagan (scheduled later that night in what turned out to be his last address at a Republican National Convention prior to announcing his diagnosis of Alzheimer's), President Bush, and Vice-President Quayle (who recovered from the Murphy Brown and potato disasters with a speech considered to be his best).
The final nail in the coffin came in the second Presidential debate with the Democratic nominee, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, and a newly re-entered Ross Perot, when Bush was seen looking at his watch at one point. Bush ended up not only losing to Clinton, but finishing with the lowest major-party percentage of the vote (37.4%) since Alfred Landon lost the 1936 election to incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt (finishing with 36.5% of the vote), and the lowest for an incumbent President since William Howard Taft finished in third place in 1912 with 23.2% of the vote.
The 1992 election was far from the end of Perot's foray into politics. In 1995, he founded the Reform Party, an organization designed to promote the ideals he had campaigned on and form a credible challenger to the Democrats and Republicans that would bring new ideas into politics. The Reform Party reached its height in 1998 when Jesse Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota on the ticket of that state's Reform Party affiliate, the Independence Party of Minnesota.
However, by 2000 several clear factions had emerged in the Reform Party, the main ones being the "old guard" of Perot loyalists, a libertarian wing led by Ventura (which counted Donald Trump among its supporters), a leftist wing led by Lenora Fulani, and a paleoconservative wing led by Pat Buchanan. Buchanan won the party's nomination for President that year, but not after a series of nasty public disputes that saw Ventura, his supporters, and other anti-Buchanan factions leave the party in disgust. It took a court decision to confirm Buchanan as the nominee after some disgruntled delegates walked out of the convention and nominated John Hagelin right across the street. Needless to say, Buchanan and the Reform Party were too distracted by infighting to run a serious campaign, and emerged from the election with only 0.4% of the vote. The Reform Party spent the following few years tearing itself apart into splinter groups, and by 2004 it had less than fifty dollars in the bank.
John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for President, was a war hero known for being a "maverick" willing to go against the party's right wing. His once-moribund campaign had, against all odds, staged a comeback and won the Republican primary against candidates like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Rudy Giuliani, yet while his moderate reputation won over many independents, it also meant that the party base didn't trust him. Furthermore, the Democratic Party's nomination of Barack Obama, who was young, hip, mixed-race, and in tune with social media and youth culture, caused the Republicans and McCain to feel that he needed a similarly energetic running mate, as he was commonly seen as the embodiment of the "old white guy" stereotype that the Republican Party was trying to shed.
Enter Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska. Young enough to be McCain's daughter, she was also a born-again Christian family woman with a staunchly conservative record as Governor. On paper, she was an excellent running mate. She could appeal to Obama's young crowd and win back the Republican Party's conservative Christian base, while potentially winning over women voters disillusioned by the failure of Hillary Rodham Clinton (arguably the closest that America has come to a female President) in the Democratic primaries. Before McCain's team had properly vetted her, the McCain/Palin ticket was a reality.
As it turns out, the selection of Palin as a running mate may have been, together with the economic meltdown (see below), one of the deciding factors that broke the Republicans' 2008 campaign. Palin quickly embarrassed herself in interviews that saw her displaying a spectacularly poor grasp of foreign policy; Tina Fey's "I can see Russia from my house!" quote on Saturday Night Livenote Palin didn't actually say that, but Fey's joke was based on Palin's assertion, in an interview with Katie Couric, that being Governor of the only state to border Russia (via the Bering Strait) constituted acceptable foreign policy experience. became the defining image of Palin, significantly tarnishing a campaign that had been built upon McCain's foreign policy credentials and decades of political experience. Furthermore, investigation of her leadership in Alaska revealed cronyism, corruption, and a Soap Opera-esque family life that was often connected to the first two, badly damaging her image as a Mrs. Smith come to clean up Washington.
Further compounding the growing disaster for McCain was the onset of the Great Recession barely a month and a half before the election. This took the focus of national attention away from The War on Terror, national security, and foreign policy, which were McCain's strengths, and towards the economy, whose poor performance the Republicans (who had been in power for eight years under President George W. Bush) were being blamed for. This wouldn't have been so bad had McCain's reaction not been to temporarily suspend his campaign to head to Congress and negotiate the bailout, creating the perception that he wasn't serious about trying to win the Presidency.
In the end, Obama won a commanding 7-point victory over the dysfunctional McCain/Palin campaign, winning every swing state except Missouri and even claiming seemingly solid "red" states like Indiana and North Carolina.
The 2012 U.S. Republican Party convention very much resembled a troubled movie shoot:
Stuart Stevens, the Romney campaign's chief strategist, described as giving off a "Hollywood" air (and he does come across like a movie producer), decided weeks before the convention to get a top writer, Peter Wehner, for the candidate's acceptance speech, the most critical part of the convention. Only problem: he didn't let Wehner spend any time with Romney, so the writer couldn't get a feel for how Romney talks. He pressed ahead anyway, and wrote a draft with good lines he was happy with. Not one word was used.
So Stevens turned to two veterans of the Bush administration, with eight days to go. By this time, the draft is usually finished and the candidate is rehearsing it, making this the equivalent of asking for a completely new draft of a screenplay from new writers two weeks before shooting starts. They were only working on Paul Ryan's acceptance speech at the time, but managed to finish one for Romney by working almost around the clock. Only one paragraph was used in a speech that ultimately was said to have been "cobbled together" by Stevens and Romney himself.
The pre-production writing problems were matched by actual production problems (so to speak). First, Hurricane Isaac forced a delay in the start of the convention. Then, an event where a speech by Romney to a veterans' group in Indianapolis was to be broadcast live in the convention hall was scratched... but since this speech was where Romney paid tribute to military veterans and the troops currently serving in Afghanistan, nobody had written that tribute into Romney's acceptance speech. Nobody caught this oversight before Romney gave the acceptance speech, leading to no end of flak for Romney for not mentioning the troops in his most important speech.
A few weeks earlier, Clint Eastwood had met Romney at a fundraiser in Idaho and asked if he could give an endorsement speech at the convention. Of course, said the candidate. Why not have a star cameo? But Eastwood refused to do a scripted speech. The resulting Big Lipped Alligator Moment of Eastwood talking to an empty chair that represented Barack Obama has become as defining an image of Tampa 2012 as those protesters flipping the bird at the camera and being beaten by the police are of Chicago 1968, to the point where some have questioned whether Eastwood was trolling the GOP.
Worse, Romney had badly bottled a visit to the UK just prior, forgetting the name of the British Leader of the Opposition (and just referring to him as "Mr Leader", with its unfortunate Banana Republic overtones) and suggesting that London wasn't ready to host the upcoming Olympics, which earned him a public rebuke from the UK's Prime Minister itself.
"Well, it's harder to host the games in an Alpha plus world city than it is to host them in the middle of nowhere."
As a general rule, in the US third parties in general have a not-undeserved reputation of being Dysfunction Junctions filled with radical politics, personality-driven campaigns, and regular infighting related to both.
The modern Olympic Games are one of the largest sporting events in the world, with cities competing to host them in order to take advantage of the glamour and tourism revenue that they attract. However, once awarded, the cities usually have to foot the bill themselves. Sometimes they go off swimmingly, others... not so much.
The fact that the Games were held in the center of the US rather than in western Europe or even on the East Coast, in a time before cheap air travel, meant that most European countries could only send a few athletes, if any. The result was a clean sweep by US athletes; 526 of the 651 people competing were doing so under the US flag, and more than half the events had only Americans in them.
Furthermore, the Games were originally scheduled to be held in Chicago, but a combination of campaigning by President Theodore Roosevelt and the fact that Chicago was woefully unprepared to host the Games forced the IOC to move the event to St. Louis, which was prepared...
...that is, to host the World's Fair that same summer. The organizers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition were strongly opposed to having to compete with the Olympics, to the point of threatening to create their own athletic competition.
The opening ceremony was a very low-key affair, with only the US team and a few foreign athletes in attendance. Instead of only a week, it took nearly five months to run all 94 events.
The 1916, 1940 and 1944 Olympics are notable for being the only Olympic Games to ever be canceled. The first was because of World War I, while the latter two were as a result of World War II.
Munich, 1972. The kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes by Palestinian gunmen was one of the grislier events on this list, and would be dramatized in the film Munich. The disaster forced the West German government to seriously re-examine its anti-terrorism procedures, especially after the botched rescue attempt that saw the athletes get killed.
Montreal, 1976. The Summer Games left Montreal so badly in debt that the financing for the Olympic Stadium wasn't paid off in full until 30 years later, and the province of Quebec insisted that the city pay off its own debts. The financial situation was so bad all around that the future of the Olympic Games was in serious doubt. On top of that, most sovereign African countries boycotted the Games because the IOC would not suspend New Zealand following its rugby team's tour of South Africa (which was banned by the IOC at the time).
The 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles games were marred by the tit-for-tat withdrawals of the US and Soviet delegations respectively. The United States pulled its team from Moscow 1980 over the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, while the Soviet Union pulled its team from Los Angeles 1984 in response; many of their respective allies did the same. The perceived politicization of the Olympics was responsible for the creation of the Goodwill Games by Ted Turner in 1986.
Seoul, 1988. While the Games themselves went off without a hitch from a non-political standpoint, they went horribly wrong for the ruling dictatorship of South Korea. President Chun Doo-hwan intended for the Games to act a showcase of South Korea's booming industrial economy, legitimize his authoritarian regime, and stave off growing pro-democratic pressure. Instead, the job of hosting the Olympics tied the government's hands when it came to putting down protesters, as it found out when a mass uprising swept the country in June 1987. Rather than crack down hard — and make South Korea look like a Banana Republic just as the eyes of the world were focused on it — Chun gave in and oversaw constitutional reforms that established democracy and human rights protections and granted amnesty to political prisoners. South Korea's first democratically-elected President officially opened the Games less than a year after taking office.
And of course, as was the case with every Olympiad in The Eighties, Cold War politics became an issue. The IOC fought hard to avoid a repeat of the boycotts of 1980 and 1984 — difficult, given that, as mentioned, South Korea at the time was a dictatorship with a pretty bad human rights record. Furthermore, there was the issue of North Korea. They came up with their own plan for the Games, which was eagerly supported by Fidel Castro; it called for a joint organizing committee, two separate opening and closing ceremonies in Pyongyang and Seoul, and for the events to be roughly evenly divided between North and South Korea. When the plan was rejected, North Korea and Cuba attempted to lead another boycott of the Games, but this time, only Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Albania, the Seychelles, and Madagascar followed them.
Atlanta, 1996. Like Munich, the Atlanta Games were also the site of a terrorist attack, this one a bombing by a Right Wing Militia Fanatic named Eric Rudolph that killed two people and injured over a hundred more. Aside from the bombing, the Games were also criticized by European Olympic officials as being overly commercialized and garish, with an overcrowded Olympic Village and poor-quality food and transportation; notably, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch declined to refer to the Atlanta Games as "the best Olympics ever", as was his usual tradition, instead calling them "most exceptional".
However, the Atlanta Games were successful in one very important respect — they turned a healthy profit, precisely because of those TV and sponsorship deals, and the infrastructure built to support them led to a revitalization of Atlanta's downtown. Today, despite the aforementioned criticism, the 1996 Summer Olympics, together with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, are often held up as examples of how to organize the Olympics without going overbudget and crippling the host city with debt.
Salt Lake City, 2002. The event were marred from the start by a scandal that broke in 1998, in which representatives for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee were accused of bribing the International Olympic Committee to award them the Games, including paying for the private schooling of one IOC member's child. While all parties were acquitted, this wasn't the only problem facing the SLOC, which was short some $379 million and needed to desperately make up the difference in order to have the money to build the required facilities. Future Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (then a venture capitalist) made his name here by turning the Games around in record time after being brought in to head the SLOC; aside from a judging controversy, no events marred the Games themselves.
Athens, 2004. Construction was severely behind schedule, with key facilities like the tram system and the Olympic Stadium itself only being finished less than two months before the start of the Games. The design for the Aquatics Center had to be greatly scaled back in order to finish it on time.
Beijing, 2008. The Chinese government went out of its way to prevent a troubled production, issuing new etiquette guidelines for Beijing police, foiling a terrorist plot by Uighur separatists, and undertaking a massive anti-pollution campaign to ensure that the city's famously smoggy skies would be clear for the Games (several athletes had chosen to train overseas for this reason, only showing up in Beijing when they actually had to perform). However, controversies still popped up. The opening ceremony was marred by the revelation that the singer they had perform "Ode to the Motherland" had been lip-synching, there were questions surrounding the age of some of the Chinese gymnasts, and despite the government's best efforts, there were still pollution problems, with some athletes pulling out of events due to poor air quality . This was on top of calls for boycotts of the Games due to China's human rights issues.
Vancouver, 2010. Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during a training run, raising concerns over the safety of the luge course. Also, since an El Niño event was going on, the Games often found themselves chronically short of snow due to the abnormally warm weather; snow had to be trucked in from higher in the mountains.
Sochi, 2014. Intended by Vladimir Putin as a showcase of Russian prosperity, Sochi instead came to be seen as a debacle well before the events kicked off.
The Games were marred by corruption scandals from top to bottom, to the point where it would be easier to list the instances where such accusations weren't happening. Sochi 2014 cost more than $50 billion, more than every other Winter Olympic Games put together, and it was said that at least a third of that money was lost due to corruption.
The Games began just as Russia became embroiled in controversy over a harsh new anti-LGBT law purporting to crack down on "homosexual propaganda". While no countries outright boycotted the Games, there was passive-aggressive opposition from many quarters, from the German Olympic team's rainbow-colored uniforms to the US sending a delegation of three openly gay athletes (in place of Barack Obama, who declined to attend) to Google putting up a message on its home page that many interpreted as a statement of support for LGBT rights. On top of this, there were also protests by Circassian nationalists demanding a state apology from the Russian government over the ethnic cleansing of Circassians that had gone on in the region 150 years prior.
Fear of terrorism ran high, especially following a number of high-profile bombings in Russia by terrorists from the region in the months before the Games.
There were complaints over the safety of the slopestyle course, with Shaun White and others refusing to ride it after one snowboarder was seriously injured on it during practice. Last-minute changes had to be made to it.
Key facilities were still unfinished on the eve of the opening ceremony. "#SochiFail" became a popular Twitter hashtag among people attending the Olympics and photographing the conditions at the hotels, which often included broken light fixtures, blinds, and door locks, communal toilets, Spartan furnishings in hotel rooms, and tap water that was unsafe to drink.
There's also the jawdropping reports that people were actually getting stuck in places. American bobsledder Johnny Quinn found himself stuck first in a bathroom, forcing him to break apart the door to escape, only to get stuck in an elevator two days later.
In the end, what little international goodwill Russia elicited from the Sochi Olympics was irrevocably tarnished when, just one week after the Games wrapped up, Russian troops invaded and eventually annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Indeed, the games were so bad that some commentators even suggested that the invasion was done, at least in part, to try and salvage Russian pride after the humiliating debacle that was Sochi.
The occupation of Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 was marred by astonishingly incompetent decisions on the part of the occupation's civilian leadership, which turned an occupation that was supposed to last for a few months into an eight-year-long clusterf*ck that arguably didn't even succeed in its goal of democratizing the country. Where to start...
The war's architects within the Bush Administration, and the yes-men in the Coalition Provisional Authority who carried out their directives to soldiers on the ground, had no combat or intelligence experience and had spent only sixty days planning the occupation of Iraq (as opposed to Roosevelt/Truman administrations, which planned the occupation of Germany two years in advance.)
Once Saddam Hussein was overthrown, neither the CPA nor Coalition forces stepped in to prevent the large-scale looting of Baghdad that followed, resulting in lawlessness and destruction throughout the city. The U.S. reluctance to take charge of Baghdad allowed criminal gangs and sectarian militias to take control of large areas.
L. Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, issued a series of executive orders which dissolved the Iraqi military and banned former members of the Ba'ath Party (who joined simply to survive under Saddam's rule) from holding decent jobs. By doing this, Bremer rendered hundreds of thousands of armed men unemployed and compelled them join a terrorist insurgency that they otherwise would have prevented had they been treated better.
The entirety of the Millennium Dome project seemed like this, from its constantly delayed boondoggle of a construction, the lack of planning about what exactly it was meant for, to underwhelming attendance figures, to confusion as to what exactly to do with the thing after the millennium celebration had concluded. It's quite difficult to improve on Andrew Rawnsley's description of the Dome as "a magnificent shell enclosing a vacuum of banality" and "a vacuous temple to political vanity" that embodied the worst features of its age: "the vapid glorification of marketing over content, fashion over creation, ephemera over achievement".
Former editor of the Daily Telegraph Bill Deedes offered an alternative opinion: on the Dome's opening, a logistical foul-up meant that some of the VIPs attending the event were stuck waiting in line for four hours with nothing to eat or drink but some "complimentary" warm red wine from plastic cups. Unluckily for the Dome, this overlooked group included the editors of most of Britain's major national newspapers...
Super Bowl XLV, the championship game of the 2010-11 NFL season. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to use the game to showcase his team's brand-new, $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium (now known as AT&T Stadium, and also "known" as Jerry World), and to break the Super Bowl attendance record. However, the week in the run-up to the game was a comedy of errors.
On January 28, Cowboys Stadium was put on lockdown due to a suspicious package... which turned out to be a piece of debris.
A few days before the game, a freak snow storm blanketed the area resulting in closure of local airports and several roads as well as brief power outages throughout the region. * As well as the paradox of the fact that the Winter Olympics in Canada did not have snow, but the Super Bowl in Texas did.
The Friday before the game, six people were injured by ice falling from the roof. As a result, on game day 4 out of the 10 gates were closed, making it very difficult for fans to enter the stadium.
To help the chances of breaking the attendance record, Jones ordered the installation of 15,000 temporary seats. However, partly because of ice and snow storms in the area around the stadium, 1,250 of those seats were not finished on game day. 850 of the fans who were to be in those seats were able to get seats elsewhere... but the other 400 were forced to go to a bar inside the stadium and watch the game on TV. They were refunded triple their ticket prices, but that still didn't take into account hotel, airfare, and other such expenses. Several fans ended up suing the NFL (the case was settled out of court).
At the end of the day, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. And the total attendance was 103,219... only 766 short of the record.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was such a clusterfrak that it is likely that the current government of Dilma Rousseff will not survive the next election due to the backlash against its handling of the games.
Massive protests occurred in the year before the World Cup, largely out of the perception that public funds going to the games were being misused, wasted on corruption, and could be better used elsewhere. Brazilian footballer Romário referred to the Cup as the "biggest theft in history", claiming that its real cost was as much as US$46 billion and alleging massive corruption on the part of both FIFA and the Brazilian government. It was for this reason that no speeches were given at the opening ceremony, as is customary.
Not only were key facilities like hotels and even stadia still unfinished at the start of the games, but the removal of (mostly indigenous) people from their homes to build such facilities was another point of contention.
In 2003, Brazil had prohibited alcohol sales at stadiums in response to a number of alcohol-related deaths during football matches. It repealed this law, under heavy pressure from FIFA, with what became known as the "Budweiser Bill" after one of the World Cup's main sponsors.
Dashcon, a fan-run Tumblr convention, became an infamous epic failure overnight. Among the many reasons:
The initial name of the event was TumblCon, which they were forced to change when Tumblr itself forbade them from using the name of the company. The fact that no one apparently considered this ahead of time was a sign of things to come.
From the beginning the event was plagued by poor organization. Anyone and everyone was invited to form a committee for a fandom, no questions asked or experience needed. This combined with little communications from the moderators and event managers lead to several committees being dissolved and heavy competition between the others for representation (with SuperWhoLock having an extreme bias with the admins). Committees were asked to submit the names of people they wanted as guests, and most of those submitted were far too ambitious for a first year con to even attempt. Thesepostsgo into more detail in regards to the various problems that plagued the pre-event management.
Extremely poor organization during the convention itself: GingerHaze was forced to moderate her own panel when her intended moderator didn't show up and hotel mints were offered as rewards for events being held. Security was also poor, with a member of 4chan's /pol/ board being able to walk in without identification and filmthe event with impunity.
Projections for the number of people attending turned out to be extremely off the mark: the managers expected over 5000 people to be attending, with the actual amount being estimated between 500 and 1500 at best. A majority of those attending also turned out to be teenagers between the age of 13 and 16, which combined with the aforementioned poor security has lead to rumours of underaged people being allowed to attend adult panels (including one on BDSM).
Steam Powered Giraffe was touted as a musical guest until the first day of the con with them continuing to sell tickets for it even though the group itself had announced that they had cancelled on their website months ago.
Welcome to Night Vale took time out of their tour only to find out that they were not going to be paid or have their travel expenses reimbursed, and responded by saying Screw This, I'm Outta Here!. Attendees were forced to to wait in a conference hall for over an hour before being told, with their compensation being one extra hour in a (pathetically small) ball pit. Those who purchased tickets for the cancelled event were also told they would not be refunded as the rules were changed during the con to prevent this. Within hours the image of the ball pit in an empty hall became infamous for symbolizing the complete catastrophe that was the entire convention.
Panelists GingerHaze and The Baker Street Babes were forced to pay for their hotel bills, which Dashcon was supposed to cover. The latter being ignored by the management staff when they tried to contact them initially. While they were both reimbursed eventually it took several days to sort out, and GingerHaze was unable to pay for more than one night and wound up having to sleep on the Ikea couch of one of the WTNV writers who took pity on her.
The con had to raise $17,000 in two hours to keep their reservation at the hotel (which the hotel has since denied ever happened) and while managed to raise it, it took days for them to offer an explanation for where exactly it went (the official explanation is it was to cover parts of the bill that they claimed had not been immediately obvious to them) and in the meantime the internet rumor mill speculated on everything from it being pocketed by unscrupulous staff members to wondering if they'd simply lost it. And while they did eventually offer to refund the donated money to those who asked they gave only a small time window to submit claims, and many who donated wouldn't be able to prove they had even done it since much of the money was collected on the floor in the form of cash with hardly any receipts or documentation.
To top it off, the fact that the con played movies and TV episodes without express consent from the copyright holders, as well as the fact that the con turned out to be a registered LLP only in Ohio, not Illinois where it was actually held, means that large parts of the con were illegal and will likely result in legal action against them.