The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 17, 2000

Tradition started by Hitler

THE modern Olympic custom of carrying a flaming torch from Athens to the site of the Games was started by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. An international team of runners carried a torch 3200 km (2000 miles) across Europe to Berlin for the opening ceremony of the 1936 Games.

The fastest man did not always win

Winning a victor’s crown in the ancient Olympics had more in common with an election than with a modern athletics competition. There was no time-keeping system, and crossing the finishing line was no guarantee of victory. Rhythm, style and grace were considered as important as beating the opposition. After each event the judges would delibrate, often for several minutes. Then each would cast a vote and the winner was decided on the results.

When the flame went out

The only time that the Olympic flame has gone out during the Games was at Montreal, Canada, on July 27, 1976. It was doused by a cloudburst during a rest day when the only people in the stadium were workmen. It was rekindled a minute or two later by a plumber named Pierre Bouchard with a cigarette lighter and a rolled up newspaper.


Owens versus the Nazis

Jesse Owens, the son of a Black Alabama cotton-picker, upstaged Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games. Nazi leaders had dismissed Owens and nine other Blacks in the US athletics team contemptuously described as ‘auxiliaries’, but the team beat the cream of Nazi youth to collect a total of seven golds, three silver and three bronze medals. Owens alone picked up four golds, in the 100 and 200 m sprints, in the long jump and in the 4x100 m relay — a feat that was repeated in the Los Angeles Games by Carl Lewis.

The real worth of gold

The world record of seven gold medals won in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games by American swimmer Mark Spitz, are worth comparatively little as bullion. Olympic gold medals are made of gilded silver.

Wives kept out

Married women were not allowed to even watch, let alone compete in, the ancient Olympics — on pain of death. The Greeks believed that the presence of wives at Olympia would defile Greece’s oldest religious shrine there, although young girls were allowed in.

Ironically, the shrine they were protecting was dedicated to a woman, the fertility goddess Rhea, who was the mother of the supreme god Zeus.The penalty for women who broke the rule was to be thrown from a nearby cliff. Only once is a woman known to have watched the Olympics and lived. She was a widow named Callipateria, who dressed up as one of the judges in order to watch her son, Pisodorus, compete. When he won, she was so overjoyed that she threw off her men’s clothes. She was not condemned to death for her father, brothers and sons had all participated gloriously in successive Olympics. Instead, a new law was passed requiring all judges to appear like at least some of the athletes: naked.

Pagan games?

The ancient Olympic Games — held every four years as part of a five-day religious festival — lasted for more than 1100 years, from 776 B.C until AD 393. In that year, they were outlawed by Theodosius I, the Christian emperor of Rome, on the grounds that they were pagan. The Games were not held again until 1896.

Olympic flag

The Olympic flag consists of a white background with no border, it has the Olympic symbol in the centre. The symbol consists of 5 coloured rings (red,blue,black,yellow and green), these colours are said to be found in every nations flag. The five rings represent the Continents of the world, which are Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and America.

The flag was designed in 1913 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, it was made in Paris and was three metres long and two metres wide. In 1988 this well-used flag was replaced by a newly commissioned flag made of Korean silk.

Sibling rivalry

Brothers tend to grow up wrestling. Some never stop.

In most families with more than one boy, the brothers grow up wrestling. On the lawn, in the living room -- wherever there's enough space for a scuffle. Except for a few pairs, however, it's rare for brothers to take their family tussles all the way to the Olympics.Yet the United States has a history of wrestling brothers going to the same Olympic Games: the Koslowski twins in 1988, the Banach twins in 1984 and the Peterson brothers in 1972. In the 1984 Los Angeles Games, brothers Dave and Mark Schulz won gold medals in different weight classes. This year, one twin follows in another's footsteps to vie for the gold. At the 1993 World Championships, identical twins Tom and Terry Brands both won world championships, making them the first American brothers ever to hold world titles the same year. Three years later at the Olympic Trials, it looked as if they'd both go to Atlanta.

Terry, a three-time world champion, won his second world title in 1995. At the 1996 Olympic Trials in Spokane, Wash., he dominated the first match against Kendall Cross. But it was not to last. Cross prevailed in the final two matches and eventually won a gold medal at the Games in Atlanta.

Distraught after his defeat in the trials, Terry raced from the ring and drove straight to his home in Iowa. To add to his pain, twin brother Tom qualified in the 62kg class and went on to win the Gold.

After some years in the wilderness of Alaska, a retirement and a comeback, now it's Terry's turn to compete for gold at the Olympic Games. Once he'd petitioned his way into June's Olympic Trials in Dallas and sailed through the challenger matches, Terry defeated national champion Kerry Boumans, exorcising his demons and winning a berth at the Olympics. No doubt his brother will be cheering him on.

The Brands aren't the only wrestling brothers with a story behind their Olympic appearances.

The breakup of the former Soviet republics into independent nations was the backdrop of a unique scenario at the Atlanta Games: Brothers Elmadi and Lukman Jabrailov competed for different countries in the same weight class in the freestyle tournament. Elmadi, the younger brother and a silver medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Games, competed for Kazakhstan. Lukman, the 1994 world champion, competed for Moldova, 1,000 miles to the west. They lived in their native Chechnya and trained together. In fact, Lukman was Elmadi's coach.

In the second round, the two went head-to-head on the mat. "My brother is my coach, and wrestling him is like wrestling me," said Elmadi. Elmadi prevailed, 10-8.

Passing the test

Instances of athletes using performance enhancing substances date back over 2000 years. Charmis, the winner of the 200m sprint in the Olympic Games of 668BC prepared for the event with a special diet of dried figs.

Drug use by athletes was clearly evident throughout the early 20th century, particularly in endurance events such as the famous "six day" cycle races.

The first drug tests on athletes were conducted at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. It wasn't until the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich that comprehensive testing was conducted at a major international event.

— Compiled by Prerana Trehan