By Debbie Emery – Radar Reporter
The 2012 London Olympic Games are finally here and over the next three weeks there will be golden moments that will go down in history and be carved into the memories of not only the competitors, but also the millions of viewers watching around the world.
In celebration of the excitement and drama to come, RadarOnline.com has compiled seven of the most memorable moments from past Olympics, including record-breaking wins, heartbreaking defeats and battles over immense adversity.
7. The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin created the perfect platform for Adolf Hitler to show the world the power of resurgent Nazi Germany, but he did not plan an African-American beating out his Aryan athletes. After Jesse Owens won a then-unprecedented four track and field gold medals (in 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4×100 meter relay), Hitler had been ordered by the Olympic committee to shake the hands of every medalist or none at all, so he chose the latter, creating the legacy that he shunned the sprint and long jumper because he was black. He is said to have been highly annoyed that Owens defeated his German rivals and reportedly stated that “people whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games.”
However, Owens felt that it was his own country who shunned him. “Hitler didn’t snub me – it was FDR (President Franklin D. Roosevelt) who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram,” and he was never invited to the White House to celebrate his quadruple gold victory that was not matched until Carl Lewis in 1984.
6. Now a new mom, gymnast Kerri Strug will always be remembered as the girl who captured America’s spirit at the 1996 Atlanta games when she took her position as the last member of the US team in rotation in the hope to beat off the Russians. After shocking spectators by falling and injuring her ankle on her first vault, the 18-year-old from Arizona managed to fight through her pain and limp out to stick the landing on her second vault before collapsing in agony. Her bravery won USA the gold medal, but unable to walk Keri was carried out to the podium by U.S. Coach Bela Karolyi. She was later treated at a hospital for a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage.
5. Ouch! American diver Greg Louganis had spectators cringing during the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, when the defending Olympic champ slammed his head on the springboard in the preliminary round while performing a reverse 2½ pike. Despite suffering a concussion in the hard hit, Louganis took home the gold medal in both 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform. Currently coaching divers of all abilities, the California native later revealed that he had found out six months before the games that he was HIV positive, and in 1994 he announced to the world that he was gay.
4. Romanian phenomena Nadia Comăneci sprung into the record books in 1976 at the Montreal, Canada games when her flawless performance beat out even the technology in the arena. At just age 14, the gymnast known as Flacăra (“The Flame”) scored a perfect 10 in the team uneven bars, but because it was the first time in modern Olympic gymnastics history that the score had ever been awarded it failed to register on the scoreboard, which instead displayed 1.00 instead. The confused crowd soon understood the blunder and gave a rousing ovation to Nadia, who went on to earn six additional tens, and capture the all-around, beam, and bars titles and a bronze medal on the floor exercise.
3. The Olympics will always be marred with one very dark memory known as the Munich Massacre. In 1972, members of the Israeli team were taken hostage from the Olympic Village and eventually killed by the Palestinian group Black September, who demanded the release of 234 prisoners held in Israeli jails along with along with two German radicals held by the German penitentiary system. By the end of the stand-off – after a rescue mission by snipers who tried to ambush the kidnappers failed – six Israeli coaches, five Israeli athletes, five members of Black September, and one West German police officer were left dead.
2. One of the most heart-warming moments of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games came before they even began when Muhammad Ali stepped up during the Opening Ceremony to light the Cauldron and ignite the Olympic flame, 12 years after the three time boxing heavyweight champion had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Visibly shaking, the 1960 Olympic gold medalist brought an eruption of applause from the audience and brought tears to many eyes.
1. Despite being the hands down favorites, this year’s US Men’s Basketball team have more than just their current competitors to better as they are following in the footsteps of the indisputable ‘Dream Team’ from 1992. The Barcelona Olympics were taken by storm when NBA superstars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing joined forces to not only win gold, but devastate their rivals with an average win margin of 44 points (the closest of their eight matches being a 117–85 victory over silver medalists Croatia.) They were later described by Sports Illustrated “as arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport,” and both the entire team and 11 of the 12 players have since been inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.