Follow TV Tropes

Following

Olympic Games / Tropes N to Z

Go To

  • National Animal Stereotypes: Most of the Funny Animal Olympic mascots play to these stereotypes, with the host nations' Olympic committees choosing well-known native creatures to represent them.
  • No Fair Cheating: Use performance-enhancing drugs without a therapeutic use exemption, and you lose your medals (even if the doping is discovered many years later, as Marion Jones shows). Lie about a team member's age, and have the same thing happen—10 years after the Sydney Games in 2000, when it was discovered that one of China's female gymnasts had been underage, the team was stripped of its bronze medal, which was then awarded to the US.
  • Advertisement:
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: There is cheating. Some get caught.
  • Old Media Playing Catch-Up: NBC's U.S. 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. When possible (particularly in Beijing and Rio), NBC has also had the ability to manipulate the schedule so that popular events could occur during U.S. primetime hours (which led to morning swimming finals in Beijing, and beach volleyball after dark in Rio. To be fair, the main host broadcaster network didn't preempt its primetime telenovelas at all during the Olympics, so this worked out well), 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 (albeit 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 the time zone difference was exactly the same as if (for example) the Super Bowl had been held on the West Coast — except that since events occurred throughout the day, the issue of delay was even less of an issue. 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.
    • Advertisement:
    • 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 the closing ceremonies between 2010 and 2014; they cut away from the show for both news (OK, news is kind of understandable) and a special debut of a new series, picking up the ceremony's afterparty 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 and 2014's closing ceremonies each had nearly an hour edited out for time (which in Sochi amounted to over a third of the entire thing), which was especially egregious since both were preceded by an hour to hour-and-a-half that was used for a retrospective before airing the ceremony proper. Thankfully, many of the worst editing problems didn't surface in the Rio 2016 broadcasts.
    • Advertisement:
    • On top of that, NBC has absolutely no live coverage of the Paralympics. All we got in 2012 (or 2014?) was five highlight shows, along with a 90-minute retrospective... which aired 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! Although not without a little financial help) 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.
    • In New Zealand, Sky Television only broadcast delayed highlights of the 2016 Summer Olympics on its free-to-air Prime channel, putting all of the live uninterrupted content behind a paywall on its Sky Sports channels. While compared to the NBC it doesn't sound that bad, it is when you consider the fact that Television New Zealand's free-to-air coverage of the 2016 Summer Paralympics included both ceremonies and the swimming finals live.
    • All of the above is probably why the IOC started its' own channel for Olympic and sports news, which was announced during Rio's closing ceremony.
  • One Head Taller / Shorter: Usain Bolt (6'5") is considerably taller than most sprinters which is actually a disadvantage. Simone Biles (4'9") is short even for a female gymnast; swimmer Cody Miller is "only" 5'10" which was highlighted by the swimmer next to him being 6'6".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, for example when Americans Simone Biles (all-around gymnastics) and Simone Manuel (100m freestyle) won gold on the same day in Rio, becoming the second and first African-American women, respectively, to win gold in their respective, individual events.
  • 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.
    • At the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, figure skater Oksana Baiul collided with Tanja Szewczenko during a practice session before the long program/free skate, requiring several stitches and two injections of painkillers in order to skate in the long program. She skated extremely well and won the gold medal, but broke down into tears after getting off the ice.
    • 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, badly spraining her ankle. Well, Kerri, and team coach Bela Károlyi, note  weren't about to stand for that. Despite intense pain in what proved to be a third-degree lateral sprain and severe tendon damage, she calmly walked back to the end of the runway, vaulted again, and stuck her landing on one foot.note  Her courageous vault sealed the first US women's team gold in Olympic history. Then she quite understandably curled up into a whimpering ball of pain; the image of Kerri sinking to her knees in agony would go on to become the most iconic of the Games. It turned out the points she would score were not needed — they would have clinched the gold in any case — but they didn't know that at the time. Kerri explains some of the background and her rationale here.
    • At the 2010 Olympics, Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdič 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.
    • Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko competed in the 1998 Olympics even though he had a serious groin injury and was feeling weak from a recent bout with the flu. He couldn't even take painkillers because this might have made him fail a drug test. He doubled over in agony at the end of his free program, but he had skated well enough to win the silver medal.
    • Canadian rower Silken Laumann was injured in a training accident ten months before the 1992 Summer Olympics. Her ankle was badly fractured and her calf muscles and ligaments were torn in several places. Doctors initially thought she might lose her leg and that even if she didn't, her rowing career was clearly over. But they had underestimated her; not only did she compete in the Olympics, she won a bronze medal. It probably didn't surprise many Canadians when she was chosen as the flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony.
  • Opposing Sports Team: 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!"
    • Not to mention this kind of thing taking place in Sydney 2000. Then they clowned around during the National Anthem. Olympic officials and many others were not amused. Some even tied it to the Sept. 11 attacks — not the actions of the athletes themselves, but the attitude behind them.
    • 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 American has the advantage of better nutrition, superior coaching and training areas, and can devote all her time to practicing, while the Honduran 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 nauseam) 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.
    • Of course, we must mention the 1936 German team. Who could possibly be better sports villains than actual Nazis?
    • For Canada it's typically the US, Russia, and China.
  • Orwellian Retcon: The medals awarded to the participants of the Olympic art competitions are no longer tracked by the IOC.
  • 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!
    • Eric Heiden is this Up to Eleven. At Lake Placid in 1980, he won all five speed skating events, at distances ranging from 500 m to 10,000 m, making him the first person ever to win five individual gold medals at a single Games. Unfortunately for him and his legacy, there was this other Miracle on Ice...
  • 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.
  • Pint-Sized 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.
    • Male gymnasts too, their routines show off serious core strength while they're generally around 5'5" tall.
  • Pop-Up Texting: The British pop-culture segment of the London 2012 opening ceremony showed these as it portrayed young people going out for a night on the town, phones in hand, keeping in contact with each other, and culminating with two of them getting a Relationship Upgrade on not-Facebook.
  • 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 athletics 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 (Hunter S. Thompson wrote about it at length, and was one of the first to suggest that maybe it wasn't such a big deal — and perhaps the whole "amateurism" thing was just a huge joke and a scam designed to make rich people feel better about losing). 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", or London's O2 Arena becoming "The North Greenwich Arena"), 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?
      IOC: McDonald's.
      IE: Those are OK, I suppose, but they're just not the same! And what are you doing encouraging McDonald's anyway? You're the Olympics! Shouldn't you be opposed to chips on principle?
      • After 2018, McDonald's is dropping its Olympic sponsorship. As of this writing it's unknown whether the IOC will seek another global sponsor in the category, or drop the "Official Restaurant" in recognition that their sponsor-exclusivity restrictions on an event sold to cities as a boon to local small business has been firmly in Bait-and-Switch territory.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Winning an Olympic bid usually means that it will bankrupt a city. The most extreme cases have been Montreal and Athens.
    • But not always. Barcelona, for example, came out from hosting the Games with a largely improved infrastructure. And most of the American stadiums (Atlanta, Lake Placid, Los Angeles, etc.) have been quite profitable as professional or collegiate sporting venues. Atlanta's Olympic village and revamped neighborhoods are now used by Georgia Tech as dormitories, collegiate apartments, and downtown parks. The Olympic stadium itself spent twenty years as the Atlanta Braves' Turner Field and is now Georgia State's football stadium.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Olympic mascots.
  • The Rival: 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, Australia vs. New Zealand, Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding, Maria Riesch vs. Lindsey Vonn, any Korean short track speed skater vs. Apolo Anton Ohno, etc...
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Zara Phillips; the Queen's granddaughter, and 14th in line to the throne when she was a Team GB Equestrian silver medallist in 2012.note 
    • 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.
    • A few other royals have been involved in Olympic events over the years, typically the more "aristocratic" ones (like equestrian, sailing, and rowing). The highest ranking of these is Juan Carlos I of Spain, who competed as Juan Carlos de Borbón in the Dragon class sailing event in 1972 Games (three years before he took the throne), in which he and his partner took 15th.
  • 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). Fortunately, Ramadan isn't always in the summertime. Particularly pleasant, however, is when the Games are in the Southern Hemisphere during Ramadan during Southern Hemisphere winter, as they get a shorter fast when they would normally have a long one.
    • 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  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....
    • During 2012, many Muslim clerics gave athletes special dispensation for the duration of the games.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Silver medalists tend to be much more displeased with their win than the bronze medalists. While bronze medalists are generally grateful that they placed at all, those who win silver often feel like they just missed out on that all-important gold medal; doubly so if they were heavily favored to win gold and were upset by someone else, and triply so if it occurred in a tournament game where winning the bronze medal means that they won the bronze medal game but winning the silver medal means that they lost the gold medal game. It doesn't help that the medal ceremony is held right after the final game, giving the silver medalists no time to collect themselves and put on a sporting face. Some don't even try to hide their disappointment on the podium. On the other hand, it helps to have a sense of humor about it. And if that's not enough, milk it for all it's worth!
    • At the 1996 Olympics, having lost to the American women's gymnastics team, the Russian and Romanian teams, the silver and bronze medalists, respectively, where shown to be stunned and in tears, clearly believing this.
    • Despite winning the first ever figure skating medal for the Far East at the 1992 Albertville Games, Japan's Midori Ito apologized to her countrymen for it being silver instead of gold. Ironically, given the rough week she'd had before the event that left everyone wondering if she'd medal at all, she herself probably felt the opposite way.
  • 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.
    • In 1998, an interviewer asked Team-USA figure-skater Michelle Kwan how it felt to "lose the gold".
    Kwan:I didn't lose the gold, I won the silver!
    • At times, Third Place Is For Winners (despite many considering the bronze a consolation, their winners are usually much happier for just winning something!). See Tom Daley's reaction after winning a bronze in the 10m platform!
      • Indeed, winning silver or bronze when you weren't expected to win anything at all is often considered to be just as good as gold—after a disastrous, unremarkable career, figure skater Paul Wylie ended up at the Albertville Games on a fluke, skated the performance of his life, and won the silver medal. And none of the medals that gymnast Shannon Miller won at the 1992 Barcelona Games were gold (2 silvers, 3 bronzes), but she was the most decorated athlete that year.
    • The Croatian Men's Basketball team had this attitude at the 1992 Games, as they were up against the Dream Team: the US Men's team that included the best players in the NBA for the first time. The Croatians had no illusions of winning against the likes of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, and were saying how it was such an honor to win the silver medal before the final game even started.
    • Japan took second in the men's 4x100m relay in Rio; first went to Jamaica with Usain Bolt, "The World's Fastest Man" for this and the past two Olympics, running the last "anchor" leg in the final race of his career. The announcers noted that unlike the most teams who practice the relay for a few weeks Japan trained for a whole year to become the fastest team in Asia.note 
  • 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.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: The games can bankrupt a country for years; LA is notable for actually making money.
    • On a smaller scale a set of women's gymnastics leotards costs about $15,000. Not so bad since they are custom made (a wardrobe malfunction will get a deduction) and covered with Swarovski crystalsnote . No word on how much the men's costs; on the one hand they aren't covered in sparkles, on the other they unlike the women they (have to?) put on a pair of pants for certain equipment.
  • Shout-Out: Russian shooter with The Witcher gear in Rio; a female weightlifter did the D.Va pose.
  • Sigil Spam: The Olympic Rings logo gets put everywhere. Also the participating countries' national flags.
  • The Slacker: India has garnered this reputation over the years. Despite being the 2nd-most populous country, it frequently does poorly in the Olympics, with many of its athletes being criticized as Glory Hounds and not seriously competing. This can be attributed to many reasons:
    • The lack of a sporting culture. Most parents are Fantasy Forbidding Fathers and Education Mamas, and want their kids to study from the get-go. To them, sports is either a recreational hobby or a waste of time.
    • General apathy towards other sports. With the exception of cricket, a sport which Indians are fanatically and devotedly attached to the point many consider it a second religion, the media tends to give scant coverage on other sports, hence the lack of awareness among the general populace on soccer or even hockey. Plus, cricket gets the lion's share of governmental and private sector backing. Also unlike China, India seems to lack the enormous drive to compete with the West and beat it on its own terms as a way of redressing centuries of colonial humiliation.
    • Inefficient governmental or private backing. Except for cricket, India hasn't invested much in sporting facilities or equipment compared to sporting powerhouses like Russia or the United States, and many officials treat sports as a joke.
    • Rampant corruption. While there may be scholarships and endowments for athletes that guarantee a basic standard of living, the sporting federations are riddled with nepotism, bureaucratic red tape, and conflicting interests.
    • The caste system. It plays a big role here, as compared to the elites, the poor hardly get a chance for education and frequently suffer from malnutrition. Also, they can barely manage to scrape by, let alone spend enough time for practice.
    • Gender inequality. As India is a patriarchal society even after gaining independence, women still face many social and institutional barriers, even if their families are supportive. Also, women's sports attracts less funding than men's.
  • Sore Loser:
    • Perhaps the most notorious example in Olympic history comes from the 2008 Beijing games, where taekwondo competitor Ángel 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.
    • Even without the snide comments she was overheard making about gold medalist Oksana Baiul's incessant weeping, it's obvious that silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan has this sentiment—her facial expressions make it quite clear that she's not pleased at her second place finish (somewhat understandable, given that she stated the performance of her life, yet one tenth of a point gave Baiul the gold over her).
    • In the 1992 Barcelona games, Russian weightlifter Ibragim Samadov threw his bronze medal to the ground on the podium and stormed off stage, as a result of which he was retrospectively disqualified (leading to there being no official bronze medal winner) and banned from further competitions.
    • Also in Barcelona 1992, sprinter Gwen Torrence, after finishing fourth in the 100m dash, snapped, "I think three people in the race were not clean." This prompted an angry reaction from American Gail Devers' coach, as well as Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert and the Unified Team's Irina Privalova, the respective gold, silver, and bronze medalists, who naturally assumed that she was referring to them. At this point, Torrence hastily amended her comments to clarify that she believed that "Gail won it clean", and tried to exempt the others, but her explanation was so convoluted that it only succeeded in making it obvious that she was a classic example of this trope.
    • At the 1996 Atlanta Games, having lost to the American women's gymnastics team, the Russian and Romanian teams, the silver and bronze medalists, respectively, were shown to be stunned and in tears, also classic examples of this.
    • In the 2016 Rio games an Egyptian judoka refused to bow or shake hands with his Israeli opponent and was subsequently kicked out. Although this might have as much to do with the loss as with the whole Arab-Jewish thing...
    • Awesomely named but known jerkass and domestic abuser Hope Solo, goalkeeper for the US women's soccer team, called the winning Swedes "cowards" (they just played it safe) after they knocked the defending gold and World Cup winners out of medal contention.note 
    • French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie entered the Rio Olympics as reigning champion, and lost the final to a Brazilian, Thiago Braz. He refused to salute Braz afterwards, and blamed his failure on the local crowd supporting his own (see Tough Room below), going as far as saying he felt like Jesse Owens and the Black Americans in the 1936 Olympics. note  Needless to say, the Nazi comparisons were not well received in Brazil, who booed Lavillenie enough on the medal ceremony for him to start crying. (Lavillenie did a public apology later, while the IOC and the IAAF asked the crowd to be more respectful)
  • 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 featured two fictional British icons, James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) and Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson); plus it had a couple nods to Doctor Who.note 
    • Tokyo wasted no time involving Japanese fictional characters for 2020: in the handoff segment of 2016's closing ceremonies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe entered "as" Super Mario with his Warp Pipe provided by Doraemon; and Hello Kitty, Pac-Man, and Captain Tsubasa appeared in the segment as well.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Mostly in basketball, volleyball, and rowing (except for the coxswain). There's also the fashion models in London's closing ceremony walking to David Bowie's "Fashion" and Gisele Bündchennote  in Rio's opening ceremony doing a fierce strut as "The Girl From Ipanema" herself (also noted to be her "final" catwalk).
  • Take a Third Option: The International Wushu Federation pushed for the inclusion of the sport for Beijing 2008. 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.
  • Take That!: During the pole vault finals in 1980, the Soviet crowd mercilessly heckled finalists from other countries, even those of the Eastern Bloc. Immediately after Poland's Władysław Kozakiewicz landed in the pit after his gold medal-winning vault, he saluted the crowd... with this (warning: may be NSFW).
  • Tasty Gold: Athletes often do this with medals they win; it makes for a great photo-op.
    Maher: This is China, you'll get lead poisoning!
  • Tears of Joy: Often of the Inelegant Blubbering variety.
  • Theme Naming: The mascots usually have one. 2016: Tom and Vinicius, Brazilian composers note ; 2012: Wenlock and Mandeville, significant English sports locationsnote ; 2000: Olly, Syd and Millie allude to Olympics, Sydney, and Millennium; 2002 and 2006 had Rock Theme Naming in Powder, Copper and Coal, and Neve and Gliz (snow and a shortened version of "ice" in Italian);
  • There Can Be Only One: Not always played straight. Some competitions might allow tied competitors to share a medal, and if it's not two bronze medals, they eliminate either the silver or the bronze (leading in 2014 to a podium with two winners and a third place). 2016 swimming had an extreme case where the 100m butterfly had one gold, three silvers and no bronze.
  • Training from Hell: All of the athletes must undergo some form of this to be in peak condition for the sporting events. Not helping are diets (even enforced for fights and weightlifting, as only the heaviest categories don't have weight restrictions...), leading the Olympic Village McDonald's to become really, really, popular.
  • Tough Room: Rio 2016 was full of it. Almost every sport, even usually quiet ones such as fencing and table tennis, had loud and rowdy spectators (which locals claimed was just people used to football behaving like that everywhere else). The crowd booed to comical extremes, especially opponents of Brazilian athletes. Neighbor and Arch-Enemy Argentina had it even worse, especially when the Argentines tried to be equally loud/insulting.
  • Turn Coat: It's not rare to see someone abandoning its native country for an Olympic spot (e.g. the 2008 men's beach volleyball bronze medal match was between a Brazilian team and a Georgian team... composed of Brazilians!note ).
    • 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.
  • Unexpected Character: 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 and got to light the Olympic torch in his home country 12 years later (after soccer/football legend Pelé couldn't do it due to health concerns), to the priest's chagrin.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: To keep in two examples, in 1996 the Cuban female volleyball team got in a fight with the Brazilian one; and in 2008 a Cuban taekwondo fighter kicked the referee after losing!
    • The Nancy Kerrigan incident.
    • No one seems to have told the Paralympians that basketball is a non-contact sport; if a player goes a match without getting tipped over, they probably weren't trying hard enough.
    • A French basketball player kicked a Spanish player in the groin during the 2012 Olympics.
    • Also in 2012, Abby Wambach of the USA Women's Soccer team took a punch in the face during a game against Colombia.
    • 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.
    • Only in the Summer Games, officially titled "Games of the [insert Roman numeral] Olympiad". The numbering scheme for the Winter Games (officially "[Insert Roman numeral] Winter Olympic Games") counts only the Games themselves (especially as one time, the gap was of only two years).
  • Unperson: Three Austrian swimmers, all Jewish, who boycotted the Berlin Games to protest the Nazi regime were not only banned from the Olympics for life, they were stripped of all honors they had earned in other competitions, as though they had never even participated to begin with, as a means of warning everyone else of the consequences of opposing the IOC.
    • Contrary to earlier edits of this item, the punishment was handed out by Austria's swimming federation, not the IOC, and none of the three had competed in any earlier Olympics, much less won medals in them. Their honors would not be restored until 1995.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Plenty of key players in the planning of the Berlin Games, according to the PBS documentary The Nazi Games: Berlin 1936, were responsible for many of the things detractors consider wrong with the Olympics, among them Carl Diem and Theodor Lewald, who wanted Berlin to host the best Games yet no matter what problems, even the rise of the Nazi Party, might have arisen.
  • 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).
    • It can become a bit uncomfortable if you accidentally put your headband on upside-down and your country isn't Austria, Bangladesh, Botswana, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Latvia, Libya (well, the old one anyway), Nigeria, or Thailand.
    • 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 honour 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, which is prominent in the culture of the country's indigenous Māori people, is also notable as the main colour of the national rugby union team, the All Blacks. 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 the "House of 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.
    • Minor aversion: Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce didn't wear a flag on her head in 2016, but she did wear the colors of her country's flag on her head. See "You Gotta Have Blue Hair" below.
  • 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.
    • Also the terrorist attacks: another also in Atlanta, the Centennial Park bombing, and the infamous Munich massacre 24 years prior. Other deaths were less prominent.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Women's volleyball and handball. A few other sports at times.
  • World of Badass: Just about every sport, given the Olympics are supposed to have the peak athletes of the world. And many have tough life stories in which sport played a part in saving them.
  • World of Muscle Men: Swimming, men's gymnastics, and various athletics contests. While fights and weightlifting have mostly ripped athletes, stout ones happen too (specially in the categories without weight restrictions).
  • 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. Completely cutting out a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 bombings that occurred the day after it was announced that London had won the Olympics? What on earth were they thinking? It wasn't even that long! They were much better when the next Games came around in Rio 2016, with the only major diversion being a then-current scandal involving the fallout from members of the US swim team taking a drunken night on the town.
    • At least a few Americans have turned to the BBC after they could no longer stand NBC's constant ads and annoying announcers. Among other gaffes and faux pas in London, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira had no idea who Tim Berners-Lee was and indulged in jokes about these silly British people revering someone nobody had ever heard of. (Hint: You're using his most famous invention right now.) If you didn't get the hint 
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Rio seemed to have a lot of colorful hairdos as noted by NBC's announcers during the Parade of Nations, most notably Jamaican runner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's yellow and green hair.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report