60 References From The Olympic Games: 1924-1960

By Mack Rawden 2008-08-09 16:55:00
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Here’s a good trick: get a job as a judge at the Olympics. Then, if some guy sets a World Record, pretend that you didn’t see it and go, “Okay, is everyone ready to start now?”

Two References Columns in one week? I must be either really bored or really inspired.

As you television-obsessed boobs (I lump myself into this category) probably know, the Olympics began tonight amidst controversy from Beijing. Whether you love General Mao (1) or hate his guts, you still have to admit without China’s distinct concoction of totalitarian-capitalism, the Opening Ceremonies wouldn’t have wielded half the grandeur or awe.

Most of you are probably new to the References since I’ve only done it in Cinema Blend Music up to this point; so, I’ll give you a brief little tutorial on how it all ties together. Like five-time Olympic medalist Apollo Anton Ohno (2), I’ll speed skate my way through history, touching on various news stories which have shaped and rocked the games and those watching them since 1924. Along the way, I’ll name drop sixty celebrities, world leaders, athletes, and fashionistas, proving my pop culture savvy and maybe even teaching you a few random tidbits along the way. Ready? Than like history’s first pissed off, hormonal female, Lilith (3), this column is ready to scream…

1924 Summer Games: Paris: Probably best known by the uninformed public as the festivities which inspired Chariots Of Fire, the 1924 Games also made swimmer Johnny Weissmuller (4) a household name. He won three golds in swimming and a bronze in water polo. Then he played Tarzan (5) and married six times. Suck on that life domination, Michael Phelps (6). Operating at a massive loss, the French government spent and spent to the tune of ten million Francs but reportedly only took six million back in. I’m not sure who the accountants or lawyers were behind that monetary fiasco, but I bet they were ancestors of high-yield bonds tycoon Michael Milken (7).

1924 Winter Games: Chamonix: The first ever Winter Olympic Games, Chamonix is note-worthy for both that fact and its god-awful judging mishaps. Anders Haugen (8), a world-class ski jumper, was originally awarded fourth place, only to receive a bronze medal fifty years later after a scoring error was discovered, and winning teams in the curling event, by far the most underrated winter sport, were original denied recognition, but were honored eighty-two years later. And you thought the Al Gore (9)/ George Bush (10) 2000 Presidential Election was a circle jerk of stupidity. Better late than never I guess.

1928 Summer Games: Amsterdam: An up-and-down ceremony for the fairer sex, great advancement was made in the women’s liberation front by adding in gymnastics, but much of that positive press was nullified when many of the female running competitors were unable to even finish the 800 meters, probably due to the absence of Rosie The Riveter (11). Don’t tell Gloria Steinem (12). Coca-Cola also made its first Olympic appearance, which proves whoring out to the man started long before Happy Gilmore (13) ate a bazillion Subway sandwiches to bulk up and beat Shooter McGavin (14) in 1996. The flying Finn Paavo Nurmi (15) also won his ninth and final gold at the ‘28 games before being forever banned due largely to Swedish vindictiveness. I’d complain more, but Peter Forsberg (16) helped the Colorado Avalanche win two Stanley Cups.

1928 Winter Games: St. Moritz: Norwegian born Sonja Henie (17), later a Hollywood mega-actress, won her first of three consecutive figure skating gold medals at the tender age of fifteen. She was later disgraced after giving Adolf Hitler (18) the Nazi Salute, which ended up working out (maybe not for her conscience) when German soldiers left her Norway home in tact during World War II raids. She eventually died in a plane crash at age of fifty-seven, though not with Buddy Holly (19) or Ronnie Van Zant (20).

1932 Summer Games: Los Angeles: An unequivocal disaster on par with the Lindbergh Baby’s (21) kidnapping, which happened a few months earlier, the economy was so bad only thirty-seven nations showed up. President Herbert Hoover (22) didn’t even bother coming. He was probably too busy not doing anything about the whole Depression debacle going on. Still the only woman ever to make the cut at a PGA tour event (sorry Michelle Wie (23)), Babe Zaharias won two golds and a silver in the javelin, hurdles, and long jump. Oh yeah, she also played the harmonica, married a professional wrestler, and won the Texas State Fair Sewing Competition. To quote James McAvoy (24) in Wanted, what the fuck have you done lately?

1932 Winter Games: Lake Placid: The games would return more famously, of course, to Lake Placid less than fifty years later, but this marked the first time the United States led the medal count during the winter festivities with a whopping twelve. That’s approximately one for every six of “I Put A Spell On You” singer Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ (25) illegitimate children or two for each of the Brady kids ( Cousin Oliver (26) not included).

1936 Summer Games: Berlin: Easily the most talked about of the pre-World War II Games, Berlin introduced the world to Nazism, ahead of her time filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (27), and Jesse Owens (28). Riefenstahl went on to change the movie-making landscape with her visionary techniques, while Owens sprinted and dazzled the German crowd on his way to four gold medals. Basketball was played for the first time in ’36 with Uncle Sam pummeling the Canucks nineteen to eight. In a related story, Charles Barkley (29) averaged eighteen points a game during the ’92 Olympics.

1936 Winter Games: Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Possibly the high point for Norway’s Olympic resume, the Scandinavian country more than doubled Germany’s second place medal total. Only eleven countries even registered in the final count, with the Netherlands being noticeably absent. Also noticeably absent was monarch King George V (30) who died a few weeks before the torch lighting. I’m not sure why that’s relevant, but you just can’t pass up opportunities to mention the House of Windsor.

1940 Summer Games: Cancelled: Fuck you, Joseph Goebbels (31).

1940 Winter Games: Cancelled: Fuck you, Emperor Hirohito (32).

1944 Summer Games: Cancelled: Fuck you, Martin Bormann (33).

1944 Winter Games: Cancelled: Fuck you, Benito Mussolini (34).

1948 Summer Games: London: After a twelve year World War II layoff, the Olympics returned to London in epic fashion. Fifty-nine nations competed in total, with both Japan and Germany being excluded thanks to the four paragraphs which preceded this one. The victors shall always write the history books. Perhaps the most fabled contest of the Games took place between Great Britain and India in field hockey, with the newly independent nation having recently claimed its independence thanks to Mohandas Gandhi (35) winning the final. Hot fact for the day: Gandhi actually covered the Olympics as a journalist, prior to achieving world-wide fame.

1948 Winter Games: St. Moritz: The first figure skating double axel was performed in competition by American Dick Button (36). He went on to reclaim gold four years later, attend Harvard Law School, and become a famous commentator. Thirty years later, he’d be attacked in Central Park by a vicious gang of baseball bat-wielding bigots. Too bad it takes a lot more than that to put down a competitive figure skater. Or at least that’s what Jon Heder (37) told me. He survived and continues to kick ass at the age of seventy-nine.

1952 Summer Games: Helsinki: The Soviet Union made their August debut here, taking second in the medal count with seventy-six tallies. Czech national Emil Zatopek (38) decided to run the marathon for the first time at the last minute and won. His name sounds a lot like Emiliano Zapata (39), who gave his name to the Zapatistas, who were funneled money by Rage Against The Machine lead singer Zach De La Rocha (40), who plays in a band with Tom Morello (41), who founded the Axis Of Justice political action group with Serj Tankian (42), which has spoken out against the type of censorship Beijing is currently employing at the current Olympic Games. Sometimes I amaze myself.

1952 Winter Games: Oslo: Poor Antoin Miliordos (43) fell down eighteen times during his slalom event. Not even noted drunk and ambivalent ass Bode Miller (44) has ever blown it that badly. The list of competing nations soared to thirty, which was an all-time high up to that point and twice the amount of flair Jennifer Aniston (45) was required to wear in Office Space. You gotta love globalization.

1956 Summer Games: Melbourne: The most famous and most important water polo match in history, the 1956 duel between the USSR and Hungary was played just months after a violent uprising which saw Khrushchev (46) order tanks into Budapest. A bevy of both unprovoked and retaliatory sucker punches legendarily tinged the water red, causing many of the Australian fans to jump guardrails and spit at the Soviets while play was still going on. Maybe that’s where Pumpkin (47) got her inspiration during Flavor Of Love. Police were called in, and Hungary won the contest and eventually the gold by the score of four to zero. Noted Australian John Landy (48) also competed in front of his home fans, taking a bronze in the 400 meters. Just two years earlier, he became the second man to break the four minute mile mark behind Roger Bannister (49). During an epic race between the two, Landy famously looked over his shoulder, only to see Bannister passing him on the outside. The moment was immortalized with a bronze statue, leading the Aussie to comment, “Lot’s wife (50) was turned to stone for that. At least he had a sense of humor about it.

1956 Winter Games: Cortina d’Ampezzo: Toni Sailer (51) epically won every Alpine Skiing event contested, grabbing himself three gold medals and a place in Austrian lore. Five decades later he flirted with a run for mayor before bowing out due to not realizing it was a full-time job. Apparently, no one ever told that to Mayor Quimby (52). You can go ahead and insert your own Marion Barry (53) crack smoking joke here. Bitch set me up!

1960 Summer Games: Rome: Anyone remember Wilma Rudolph (54)? These were the Olympics which made her famous. A former polio victim (thanks Jonas Salk (55)), she overcame her ailment to win three gold medals, the first American woman ever to do so. Her story inspired a made-for-television movie which launched the career of Denzel Washington (56). A young Muhammad Ali (57), then known as Cassius Clay, was also made famous by these Olympics, as he took home gold in boxing’s light-heavyweight division. Here’s your Muhammad quote of the day: “Frazier (57) is so ugly he should donate his face to the US Bureau Of Wild Life.” Classic.

1960 Winter Games: Squaw Valley: Improbably, Uncle Sam’s ice hockey team surpassed all expectations, winning the gold medal and setting the stage for an even bigger victory twenty years later. Little known fact: legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks (58) was the last man cut from that squad. The 1960 Olympic Games also introduced the world to instant replay, after judges asked CBS for footage to recheck a skiing call. Too bad for Baltimore Orioles’ fans Major League Baseball hadn’t yet gotten on board when twelve year old Jeffrey Maier (59) reached onto the field and pulled Derek Jeter’s (60) flyball over the fence during the 1996 ALCS.

There’s part one, rock stars. I’ll be back in the next few days with part two (and probably a few more Olympic stories you’re intimately acquainted with). Enjoy your weekend, watch the Beijing coverage obsessively, and pass off some of these stories as your own.

Stat boy, what’d I miss?

Here’s your YouTube video of the week. It’s Jesse Owens’ performance in the one hundred meters…


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