With the 2010 Winter Olympics going on in Vancouver right now and a bit of controversy surrounding the games. Let’s take a look at the all time biggest scandals for the Winter Olympics shall we?
1994: Tonya Harding’s figure skating sabotage
The most widely publicized and oft-remembered scandal in Winter Olympic history is the attempted sabotage of U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan by teammate Tonya Harding. Harding’s ex-husband and his friends attacked Kerrigan after a practice event for the 1994 Figure Skating Championships before the big games. Although Kerrigan was badly injured, she maintained her spot on the Olympic team and went on to win the U.S. the silver medal. In an ironic twist, Harding’s ice skate broke during her performance, and she came in eighth.
Harding was never officially charged with responsibility for the attack, although she did plead guilty to attempting to cover up the attack. However, the USFSA conducted its own investigation and found Harding guilty — she was stripped of her FSC win, and banned for life from all USFSA events.
2002: Salt Lake City officials bribe IOC to win bid
After multiple failed attempts to win the bid for the Winter Games, the heads of the Salt Lake City Olympics Committee decided to try a new approach for 2002: bribery. They spent millions on gifts, trips, scholarships, and plastic surgery for International Olympics Committee members, and even hooked their family members up with jobs. Of course, it worked, and Salt Lake won the bid. The bribery was uncovered in 1998, and the two heads of the SLOC, as well as several members of the IOC, all resigned.
2006: Skier Bode Miller skis while drunk
A month before the 2006 Winter Games at Torino, U.S. favorite Bode Miller appeared on 60 Minutes. He ended up revealing that he had skied while “wasted” before, and that he wouldn’t be opposed to trying it again. Obviously, the public wasn’t very happy about this. Miller’s sponsors, coaches, and fans all questioned his devotion to the sport, and he quickly apologized and backtracked. This year, he came back strong and won the bronze medal in the men’s downhill event
1988: Ticket scams galore
Trouble at the 1988 Calgary games started way before the torch was lit. For starters, the government reserved 10,000 tickets for officials, sponsors, and other “VIPs,” leaving tickets for the public in short supply. Scalpers had a field day with the remaining few, and hiked their prices up to as high as $4,000 a ticket.
Additionally, ticket manager James McGregor scammed American ticket-buyers into paying the ticket price (listed in Canadian dollars) in American dollars, then pocketing the difference. He was later charged with fraud and spent five years in prison. In an ironic twist, not a single Canadian athlete won a gold medal in the 1988 games. (Canada finally ended their gold medal drought in home Olympics this year.)
1968: Women’s luge competitors cheat with heat
East Germany dominated the women’s luge competition in 1968, taking first, second, and fourth place. Few wondered how, after it was discovered that the women had been heating up the runners of their sleds prior to the races to increase their speed. All three of their medals were revoked, and third-place Italy was awarded the gold.
1976: Denver originally won the bid… but taxpayers refused
Taking note of this sign, which was photographed at the 1972 Olympics, you might recall that the 1976 Olympic games actually took place in Innsbruck, Austria. When, in 1970, Denver won the bid for the Olympics, everyone was excited — except for the citizens of Colorado. Concerns about a rise in taxes prompted them to reject the bid in the Fall of ’72, and the games were moved to Austria. This was the first and only time in history that citizens have refused the honor of hosting the Olympics.
1998: Is marijuana a performance-enhancing drug?
Canadian Ross Rebagliati won the first ever gold for snowboarding at the 1998 Olympics. And then he immediately had it taken away when authorities found traces of THC in his blood. Rebagliati argued that his friends had been smoking around him and the substances must have gotten in his system secondhand. Shoddy excuse aside, the decision was quickly overturned and Rebagliati’s medal reinstated when the Court of Arbitration for Sports determined that the International Ski Federation had not put marijuana on its list of banned substances.
1994: UK’s stars lose out over controversial “lift”
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean seemed like an unstoppable duo. They became the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time in the 1984 Olympics, when they earned perfect scores across the board. So when the pair ended up with the bronze medal in 1994 after a seemingly perfect routine, everyone was surprised.
Some of the judges argued that one of the couple’s “overhead lifts” was illegal and marked them down severely for it. But Torvill and Dean countered that their lift did not violate the rule, and asked why no one had noticed it in the preliminaries. Further inconsistencies in the judging for figure skating across the board were later revealed. 1994 was their last competition. To this day, the pair holds firm that the lift was legal.
2002: Corrupt judge docks points from flawless performance
After Canadian figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier performed their flawless routine, Olympic commentators across the board assumed they would win. So it was a shocker to everyone when the judges awarded the gold to the Russian team, who had made an obvious technical error during their performance.
“How did that happen?” exclaimed NBC announcer Scott Hamilton.
As it turned out, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne had arranged a deal with the Russian judges to score their team higher in exchange for favorable marks for the French team in another competition.
Sale and Pelletier were awarded a second set of gold medals.
2010: Vancouver’s deadly luge track
The 2010 Olympics have barely begun, but disaster struck early. On Friday, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was taking his second practice run of the day when he spun out of control on a straightaway, flew off his sled, and hit a steel pole at 88 MPH. He was pronounced dead soon after the crash.
The Olympics organizers wound up shortening the luge race by having men start at the women’s starting position, and eventually added more walls to the course and padding to the rails. But officials refused to admit the course was dangerous, and pathetically blamed Kumaritashvili for his crash and death.
2010: NBC ruins the Olympics for millions by refusing to broadcast events live
NBC: The network that prevents you from watching the Olympics.
In the age of Twitter, 24/7 real-time online news coverage, and real-time everything, NBC still thinks it’s 1976, and that the best way to cover the Olympics is via tape delay. Actually, that’s the worst way to cover the Olympics. For instance, by the time NBC got around to airing Bode Miller’s downhill run last night, everyone already knew that he came in third place.
You know, I still can’t believe that NBC think it’s okay not to air the Olympics live. What would be your choices?
source: The 10 Worst Winter Olympics PR Disasters Of All Time [Business Insider]