The Winter Olympics in Sochi this year have already got the international communities’ eyebrows raised. From unfinished hotels, equipment deemed too unsafe by athletes and of course Russia’s controversial take on homosexuality; it’s grabbing headlines for reasons that have little to do with the actual games themselves.
Not that this is a new concept, the games inevitably bring drama, both on and off the field. Here are a few facts about past Winter Olympics games that you may not know.
Firstly, did you know that snowboarding was only accepted into the Winter Olympics in 1998? To me this was a shock, but it’s a relatively new ‘sport’ in Olympic terms. Ross Rebagliati (of Canada) was the first person to win a gold medal in a snowboarding event.
I also didn’t realise that (one of my favourite childhood films) Cool Runnings was based on true events. This is the story of the Jamaican Bobsled team that against all the odds made it into the 1988 Olympics. Sadly they failed to win any silverware nor did they officially finish due to a crash in one of their four runs. Happily we can root for the underdogs again this year though, as they qualified for the games in Sochi.
1988 was also the year the Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards made his Olympic debut, while we are on the subject of defying the odds; it would be rude not to mention our own plucky Brit. Edwards was the first British competitor to compete in Ski jumping, and heroically failed by finishing last. In a bizarre turn of events the worse he did, the more he endeared himself to the international crowd. Unfortunately, his fellow competitors felt he was making a mockery of the games. In response to Eddie’s triumphant failure, the International Olympic Committee tightened its admission rules.
Getting a little more sinister now, Nancy Kerrigan was tipped to pick up Gold for the US in the 1994 Lillehammer games. In a shocking twist, Kerrigan’s Rival, Tonya Harding conspired (and nearly succeeded) to topple the favourite, by enlisting her ex-husband to give her a whack on the kneecap with a metal baton. Happily Kerrigan recovered in time for the games, and bagged silver, but oddly enough Harding was still allowed to compete and ended up in 8th place.
The Olympics have been known to get a bit political, this year’s controversy has been well publicised in the western media. International disputes and squabbles can stop countries from being able to participate, for example, South Africa was banned from all Olympic games from 1964-1988(as part of the sporting boycott during the Apartheid era). In recent history though, the Winter Olympics have been cancelled, both in 1940 and 1944, essentially due to the outbreak of World War Two.
The next Winter Olympics is due to be held in Pyeongchang in South Korea.