Great Photographic Moments in Olympic History

Since our beginnings, Iconic Photos has covered some of the most memorable photos from different Olympiads throughout history. As the world’s greatest athletes gather in London for its 30th incarnation, we look back at nine of them. The photos are captioned clockwise from top left in the poll, and the links are below.

For detailed articles, go to: Black Power saluteWladyslaw KozakiewiczGreg LouganisDorando PietriAmerican basketball team’s controversial lossJesse Owens gets cheersAntonio Rebollo lights the flame; the bloody water-polo match; terrorism rears its ugly hooded head. Follow me on Twitter @aalholmes.

Kozakiewicz’s gesture

So I was reading this strange article by Christopher Hitchens (who else?) while I saw this photo.

The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were already mired by controversy even before they opened. The United States led the boycott of 64 other countries in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They instead participated in the Olympic Boycott Games or the “Liberty Bell Classic” in Philadelphia, which opened 3 days before the actual games. Fifteen other countries (mainly European) that participated did so under the Olympic Flag instead of their national flags. The Olympic Flag and Hymn were used at Medal Ceremonies when athletes from these countries won medals. The Soviet television alternately ignored and criticized this.

After setting a new world record on July 30th, Polish pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz made a rude gesture (bras d’honneur) to the hostile, jeering Moscow crowd. The crowd was rooting for Soviet jumper Konstantin Volkov. The image was seen around the world except ironically in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. To many, it signified Polish resentment of Russia’s control over Eastern Europe; in Poland, the gesture became immediately known as Kozakiewicz’s gesture. (gest Kozakiewicza).

After the Olympics, the Soviet ambassador to Poland demanded that Kozakiewicz be stripped of his medal over his “insult to the Soviet people”. The official response of the Polish government was that the gesture had been an involuntary muscle spasm caused by his exertion. Kozakiewicz for his part promptly defected to West Germany.