There are SO MANY historical moments in Olympic history that they just can’t be squeezed into a Top 10 list.
So think of this list as ‘some’ of the moments that stuck in our minds, rather than a ‘this is the OFFICIAL Top 10. Fear me, now. Grrr’ kind of list.
Not listed in order of importance…as you will soon see…‘cos the first is…
1) Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards at the 1988 Calgary Ski Jumping Winter Olympics
Plasterer by trade, blind as a bat and a bit too chubby to ski-jump.
But in true Olympian style, he pressed on anyway, funding the whole feat out of his own pocket (as there was no sponsorship).
And ski-jump he did…
…pretty badly – so bad his shadow just plain refused to jump with him.
Eddie may well have come last in both jumps (the 70m and 90m) – but his feat endeared him to tens of thousands of people who loved him for trying, for believing he could do it when the odds were stacked up against him, for having the audacity to boldly go where no plasterer had gone before.
Eddie, I raise a carton of Ribena in your honour, man.
2) Why, Ben, Why?
Ben Johnson was a popular athlete with a number of medals under his belt including two silvers at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 1982, a bronze at the 1984 LA Summer Olympics and gold at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
So when he bagged gold at the World Championships in Rome in 1987 and at the Seoul Olympics the following year, it was no less than what he deserved …that’s, ahem, had he not flavoured his cup of Tetley’s with anabolic steroids.
All hell broke loose, the media had a field day, and Ben was stripped of his medals and shown the door (I wonder if he jogged, sprinted or walked out of it?)
He made a comeback in 1991 after his suspension ended, but bombed. In ‘93, he was kicked out for good after tests showed ‘Ben done did it again’ following a race in Montreal.
3) Tommie Smith’s & John Carlos’ Black Power salute…
Mexico City. The 1968 Olympics. Tommie Smith & John Carlos, I’m sure, had made their mothers proud by bagging gold and bronze respectively in the 200m race.
Receiving their medals, they step onto the podium with no shoes on except for black socks.
Each has a black glove on.
Lowering their heads, they each raise a fist to the sky as the Star Spangled Banner plays.
Star Spangled Banner. Black Power.
Star Spangled Banner. Black Pride.
It was a bold and defining moment …a defining moment that greatly inspired many…
… and p*ssed off some…hugely… such that both men were banned from the Olympics and ostracized when they returned to the US (yep – the very country they were representing).
All the same, nothing takes away from that day in 1968 when the personal became political.
4) Cathy Freeman: 1994 Canada Commonwealth Games – 2000 Sydney Olympics…
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Freeman became the first Aboriginal to run for Australia, lighting the Olympic flame, then getting her groove on by winning gold in the 400m. It was an undeniably significant moment, an amazing moment, but a shame that it happened as recently as 2000 and not way, way, way before that.
Prior to that, bearing similar political echoes to Smith and Carlos, when Cathy won her first medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, she wore both the Aboriginal flag and the Australian flag over her shoulder as she ran her victory lap. Upon winning her 2nd medal in the same event, she ignored the warnings of the head of the Australian team and sashayed round the block again, head held high, with both flags in tow.
She won in more ways than one.
5) Jesse Owens – Berlin Olympics, 1936
Hitler sure didn’t know what he was in for when Jesse Owens turned up. No, siree.
Owens not only bagged a gold medal in the 100m, but won gold medals in the 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay, setting 3 world records and an Olympic record for good measure.
Definitely got a certain Aryan’s moustache a-twitching – what a novel way to well and truly SET YOURSELF UP.
6) Carl Lewis – Los Angeles Olympics, 1984
Is it a bird? Is it EasyJet? No, it’s King Carl!
Long jumper and sprinter, Carlton Lewis, is up next because almost 50 years later, he matched Jesse Owens’ Berlin achievements medal-for-medal. Yep, 100m, 200m, long jump and the 4x100m rely.
Both athletes were very close in age, too. Jesse Owens was 22 years old when he showed Hitler where it was at. Carl Lewis was 23.
7) Nadia Comaneci’s Perfect 10…
Nadia Comaneci was just 14 years old when she scored a perfect 10 in a gymnastic event at the Montreal Summer Olympics in 1976. It was the first time anyone had been awarded such a score.
To show how unexpected this lovely miracle was, the scoreboards weren’t even equipped to show 10s.
The Romanian gymnast went on to score six more 10s over the course of that competition, going home with five medals (3 gold, a silver and a bronze).
1972 Olympic Games, ‘The Munich Massacre’ …
In the early hours of September 5th, and 2 weeks into the Games, a Palestinian terrorist group called ‘Black September’ broke into the Olympic village and abducted 11 Israeli team members.
Two hostages were shot dead after trying to attack some of the terrorist members. Then, in an unsuccessful attempt to free the hostages, nine abductees were killed along with 5 of the terrorists and one policeman.
The three remaining terrorists were caught but later released when a Lufthansa plane was hijacked by a group of Palestinians.
Surprisingly, the games weren’t cancelled or suspended for any significant amount of time. A deeply insensitive move? Or an impassioned middle-fingered response to terrorism? Who knows?
9) Abebe Bikila…the bare-foot runner…
It’s 1960. It’s the Summer Olympic Games in Rome.
Stifling hot, the 26.2 mile marathon had been set in the evening.
Abebe Bikila runs the marathon – barefoot – and wins, setting a new world record and becoming the first African to win a gold medal.
In all fairness, he tried wearing shoes before the race, but found the ones the sponsors (Adidas) provided quite uncomfortable.
He’d go on to successfully defend his title at the Tokyo Olympics 4 years later (with shoes on this time).
10) Steve Redgrave – 2000 Sydney Olympics…
The former British rower, Sir Steve, just didn’t know how to stop winning gold – which is why he just kept on doing it for five Olympic Games in a row (‘xcuse the pun) from 1984 to 2000 (Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney).
His 5th gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics was significant – monumentally so – as that win made him the first ever Briton to have achieved that milestone.
He retired soon after, aged 38.
What’s just as amazing is that he achieved these in the face of continuous ill health, having been diagnosed with colitis and diabetes.
What a spirit.