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Top 10 Olympic Scandals and Tragedies

Written by: Editorial Staff

July 26, 2012
Filed Under Holidays, Sports 

Tags: ,

Olympic scandalsContributed by Info Guru Jennifer Andrews

The Olympics is a major international sporting event in which thousands of athletes across the globe compete against each other in their specific events.

Held every second year, the Olympic Games alternate between summer and winter sporting events, and honor top athletes with gold, silver and bronze medals. The Olympics celebrate shared humanity amongst fellow athletes in differing countries, and particularly value sportsmanship and integrity. Unfortunately, not all of the Games over the years have honored these values, and as a result, controversy has ensued. Yet, not all Olympic scandals are a result of poor sportsmanship during sporting events. Rather, scandals may have developed off the court, away from the arena or even before or after the Games. In each case however, Olympic athletes and associated are involved and make a significant impact on the international sporting celebration.

Check out the following top ten Olympic scandals (and tragedies) below to see what was naughty instead of nice.

10. Harding and Kerrigan

Kerrigan and Harding

One of the top Olympic scandals occurred during the 1994 winter games and involved US figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Harding, along with husband Jeff Gillooly, planned and carried out an attack on competitor Kerrigan at the US Figure Skating Championships prior to the Olympic Games. A blow to the knees by attacker Shane Stant was meant to eliminate Kerrigan from the competition, however in the end it only ruined Harding’s reputation and tarnished the forthcoming games.

9. Atlanta bombing

Atlanta bombing

Tragedy erupted during the 1996 summer Olympic games held in Atlanta, US when a bomb was detonated in Centennial Olympic Park. The bomb exploded during an outdoor concert that was popular spot for both athletes and fans and killed two people while injuring several others.

8. IOC Bribery

IOC bribery

The International Olympic Committee Bribery scandal went down in 1999, markedly diminishing and ruining the reputation of the Olympics governing body. The scandal gained notoriety when it was revealed that several Olympic committee members were taking bribes in the form of large amounts of money in exchange for voting in favor of Salt Lake City as the next Olympic destination. Although scandalous IOC members were banned, the games were still held in Utah due to the late timing and inability to change venues despite many protests.

7. Hitler


In 1936, an Olympic scandal developed when Hitler attended the Berlin games to watch his country’s top athletes compete on a global scale. Hitler maintained his reputation as a racist and unjust when he refused to give track and fields’ Jesse Owens his winning medals due to the fact that the athlete was black.

6. John Thorpe

John Thorpe

Track and Field’s John Thorpe created an Olympic scandal during the 1912 Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden. Although Thorpe won two gold medals that year, he was later stripped of his two gold prizes when it was discovered he was not an amateur athlete having previously played baseball for money.

5. Running break

Fred Lorz

Olympic marathoner Fred Lorz was involved in one of the most ridiculous, if not somewhat humorous, Olympic scandals during the 1904 games. Apparently Lorz decided to take a running break for eleven miles of the marathon by hopping into his manager’s car for a ride. Although he crossed the finish line first, spectators were quick to call him out for cheating by not running the whole race.

4. Time-out


The gold medal basketball game of the 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich developed into a scandal when a court time-out was not called properly. The US was celebrating a gold medal win only to discover that the clock had been reset to allow an extra 50 seconds of game time. This was just enough time for Russia to score another basket leading to a 51-50 win in favor of Russia. To this day the US team has refused to accept their silver medal.

3. Hurling insults

obscene gestures

Olympic polish athlete Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz created a buzzing scandal during the 1980 games held in Moscow for insulting the crowd – without words. After winning a gold medal in pole vault, the athlete made a rude obscene gesture to the crowd in response to the crowd’s boos and hisses.

2. No drinking

drinking beer

Most athletes know the strict rules of the Olympic Games such as staying away from any performance enhancing drugs. However, this rule also applies to alcohol and was unawares by the likes of Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Lilijenwall who was disqualified after consuming two beers prior to a pistol shooting match of the competition.

1. Munich

massacre in Munich

Among the most devastating Olympic tragedies is the 1972 Munich massacre where terrorists attacked the games Israeli athletes. The Palestinian group Black September took several athletes hostage which left 17 people dead after a stand-off with the police.


One Response to “Top 10 Olympic Scandals and Tragedies”

  1. Samantha on July 30th, 2012 10:11 pm

    Your #7 about Hitler refusing to acknowledge Jesse Owens – the black American winner – isn’t the biggest part of the scandal. The scandal is that Hitler finally sent Owens a commemorative inscribed cabinet photograph of himself while Owens was snubbed by FDR and Truman. It’s all over the internet right now as a meme – that even Hitler finally acknowledged Owens while the president of the U.S. did not.