8 Biggest Olympic Scandals and Controversies in History


Germany hosted the Summer Olympics three years into Hitler's repression. Berlin was to host the 1936 Olympics before Hitler assumed power, but there were misgivings. Hitler and his cronies exploited the Games to spread Nazi propaganda and power abroad, historians argue. 

1. Berlin's 1936 Olympics during the Nazi rise to power

Melbourne, Australia, hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics in November and December to accommodate Southern Hemisphere summer. The first Games outside the Northern Hemisphere. Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq boycotted the Games to protest the Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, and the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland boycotted because the IOC did not suspend the Soviet Union for its invasion of Hungary. 

2. Multiple international issues led to 1956 Games boycotts in Melbourne

The 1968 Mexico City Games opening ceremony was marred by the Tlatelolco Massacre ten days earlier. The Mexican military gunned down students protesting political prisoners and the government's restriction of their rights. Student leaders said 190 demonstrators perished in the slaughter 50 years ago, but the authorities claimed 26.

3. The 1968 Mexico Games were preceded by a massacre

After Hitler's Berlin, Munich hosted the Olympics 36 years later. To boost Germany's international image, the Games were called “the smiling games” and “the games of peace and joy”. This goal was missed when Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympic village at night and seized Israeli athletes and coaches, demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners and German terrorists. Israel lost 11 players. 

4. The terrorist massacre at the 1972 Games in Munich 

The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia, were the first in a communist nation and boycotted by 65 nations, including the US. President Jimmy Carter protested the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with the boycott. Carter threatened to revoke U.S. athletes' passports if they attended. The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

5. The 1980 Games in Moscow saw the most boycotts ever

Figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding peaked in 1994. After a practice session for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Kerrigan came off the ice and was batoned in the right knee by an assailant who fled. The media and figure skating world often pitted them against each other.

6. The 1994 Winter Olympics followed the attack on Nancy Kerrigan

As China prepared to host the Games in Beijing, participants were reportedly encouraged to win more medals than the Americans. A diver lost a retina, female athletes were urged to restart training soon after childbirth, and athletes were informed that if they didn't win a gold in the Beijing Olympics, their athletic achievements were pointless, according to the New York Times. 

7. Anti-Asian racism and human rights breaches plagued the 2008 Beijing Games

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics included Ryan Lochte. As a 12-time Olympic Gold winner and famed US swimmer, Lochte was already under scrutiny, but he and three teammates said they were held up at gunpoint after a night out in Brazil. 

8. The U.S. swim team lies big in the 2016 Rio Games  

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