As last week’s tragic luge incident showed us, the Olympics are never free from mishaps. Yet, Vancouver seems to be leading the competition: the Olympic torch malfunctioned and it was fenced off from the public, prompting a headline, “Mr. Furlong, tear down this fence!“. Warm weather caused a lot of trouble while millions of tickets were cancelled.
Probably not as bad as 1996 Games in Atlanta though, when overloaded trains and traffic jams kept athletes and journalists from getting to the events. Many Olympic bus drivers quit while various teams moved out of the Olympic village. Heat, lack of air-condition (even inside the subway) and water created hell for visitors, while various escalators broke down. The city demanded the computer provider, IBM, to use ‘proven’ technology–i.e., technology that is more than 2 years only–which led to massive computer glitches. It described an Angolan basketball player as three feet tall and another gymnast was 97 years old. It was so poorly managed that France-Soir noted: “Africa has been deprived of the Games since their creation with the pretext that African countries don’t have the necessary infrastructure. After Atlanta, any country in the world can apply to host the Games.” In his closing speech, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch described the Atlanta Games as “most exceptional”, an ambivalent departure from traditionally speech that has to describe the Games he was closing as the “best ever”.
Perhaps the most famous olympic mishap was at Seoul Olympics in 1988. Normally during an opening ceremony, white doves are released, but during the Seoul opening ceremony, a few of them settled in the cauldron that housed the Olympic flame as it was being lit. (This caused the cancellation of the dove-releasing tradition). Also in 1988, US diver Greg Louganis smashed his head on the board on his ninth preliminary springboard dive, while attempting a 2½ somersault pike. He received stitches before completing his tenth dive. He overcame the head injury to gain the highest score in the preliminaries and qualify for the final and wins a gold medal in Seoul. This extraordinary come-back made Louganis “Athlete of the Year” for ABC. In 1995, it was revealed that Louganis had been HIV positive at the time of the accident and had not informed the doctor treating him for the head injury. The doctor subsequently tested negative for HIV.