2020 hasn’t exactly gone the way we envisioned. (Get it? 2020 vision? Couldn’t resist.) So much has happened, particularly with the Coronavirus, that we didn’t expect. Unfortunately, this has meant missing out on other things. While most people can relate to missing graduation, weddings, and other celebrations, not getting to have the summer Olympics this year has been widely felt. Since we don’t get to tune in live, let’s take a look at and relive some past Olympic moments.
Memorable Olympic Moments
So what constitutes the most famous moments in Olympic history? Well, that depends on who you ask. What I deem as memorable may not mean anything to you. Let’s track some of the famous moments from each Olympics, starting in the 1930s through 1980. You can read more about them at our source, the official website of the Olympic Games.
1936 – Berlin
The Olympic committee awarded the 1936 games to Berlin after World War I to give Germany a chance to show it was coming back. Here are some highlights:
- Jesse Owens stole the show with golds in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.
- First Olympics with television coverage, available to Berlin residents at locations around the city.
- Debut of the opening torch relay.
- Event debuts: basketball, canoeing, and field handball.
- Hitler tried to use the games to show the superiority of the Aryan race, which backfired with Jesse Owens’ success.
1940 & 1944
The 1040 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to WWII.
1948 – London
This was the first Olympic games in over a decade, and London hosted with very little notice. Rationing and scarcity of essential products presented a huge challenge.
- Bob Mathias, a 17-year-old American teenager, won the decathlon after taking up the sport only four months before.
- Introduced starting blocks for sprint athletes.
- First time for home television coverage.
1952 – Helsinki
During the 1952 games, some feared that Cold War tensions could lead to entanglements between countries. Fortunately, this did not come to pass. Here are some Olympic moments:
- Israel and the Soviet Union joined for the first time.
- Soviet women’s gymnastics team started a 40 year winning streak.
- Czech long-distance runner Emil Zátopek won the 5,000m 10,000m, and the marathon. He is still the only athlete to achieve gold medals in all three events.
1956 – Melbourne/Stockholm
Because of horses needing to be quarantined upon entering Australia, equestrian events took place in Sweden later in the year. Other Olympic moments from the 1956 games:
- East and West Germany competed as a unified team, with “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s IX Symphony as their anthem.
- First games to experience a boycott: Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, People’s Republic of China
- First time athletes paraded together (not by country) in closing ceremony.
1960 – Rome
The 1960 games allowed Italy to show off its rich history by holding events in ancient places, like the wrestling competition in the Basilica of Maxentius. Other moments:
- Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila set himself apart not only by winning the marathon, but by doing so barefoot.
- US Boxer Cassius Marcellus Clay won the light-heavyweight gold medal. He would later be known as Muhammad Ali.
1964 – Tokyo
1964 was the first time the Olympic games were held in Asia, and the torch carrier was specifically chosen because he was born the day the the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima. Here’s more:
- Last time official timing was done by hand stopwatch.
- Abebe Bikila had a second marathon win, making him the first ever to do so.
- Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina brought her medal total to an impressive 18.
1968 – Mexico City
Its high altitude made Mexico City an interesting choice for the games. While it actually helped events like throwing and weightlifting, participants in endurance events had a harder time.
- A woman lights the Olympic torch for the first time.
- High altitude attributed to broken records in long and triple jump.
- Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska defeated Soviet gymnasts just 2 months after the USSR invaded her country.
1972 – Munich
From the official Olympic website:
On 5 September, eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village, killing two members of the Israeli team and taking nine hostages. In the ensuing battle, all nine Israeli hostages were killed, as were five of the terrorists and one policeman. In defiance of the terrorists, the IOC ordered the competitions to resume after a pause of 34 hours.
Obviously, the above events overshadowed all other aspects of these games, but here are some highlights:
- Debut of men’s indoor handball, slalom canoeing and kayaking.
- US swimmer Mark Spitz broke 7 world records and secured 7 gold medals.
- Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut dominated media attention with up and down performances.
1976 – Montreal
In 1976, 22 African countries participated in a boycott of the games, protesting the New Zealand rugby team’s tour of apartheid South Africa. Other moments include:
- First time for women’s basketball, rowing and team handball.
- The Japanese women’s volleyball team sailed through, winning every match in straight sets.
- Nadia Comaneci of Romania received an unprecedented perfect 10.0 for her performance on the uneven bars.
1980 – Moscow
Because of a US led boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, only 80 countries competed. Here are some other items:
- Russian gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin became the first person to win 8 medals in one Olympic games.
- Because of the boycott, Russia’s field hockey team was the only one left to compete. A week before the games, Zimbabwe assembled a team and, surprisingly, ended up winning.
- Super-heavyweight Teófilo Stevenson of Cuba was the first boxer to win the same division three times.
Your Olympic Moments
We’ve talked about how you can entertain yourself at home during the Coronavirus, but catching up on memorable Olympic moments could fill many hours. We’d love to know your favorites! You can join the conversation over on our Facebook page.