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The top 10 Olympics disasters

What will go wrong in London 2012?

An Olympics in London without something going wrong? It doesn't sound very British to Dan Fitch, who has unearthed a host of past Olympics disasters.

Since being awarded the right to host the 2012 Olympics some six years ago, the British have been beavering away to ensure that the games take place without so much as the merest hitch.

Despite our best efforts it is unrealistic to think that the 2012 Olympics will pass without its share of mishaps. For one, Boris Johnson may well be involved in some way and also, the history of the Olympics is one rich with disasters that have besmirched the good name of the games.

From outright cheating, stupid rulings, athletes with poor time keeping, to acts of violence; the one thing that we can guarantee next summer is that no matter how well things are organised, a blunder is never far away. Here are the top 10 Olympics disasters.

10. Dozy athlete misses the starting pistol

Wym Essajas looked set to make history at the 1960 Rome Olympics by becoming the first athlete to represent his nation Suriname at the games.

Unfortunately the only type of immortality Essajas would enjoy is by appearing on lists like these. Having been told the wrong starting time of his 800m event, Essajas was asleep at the exact time that he should have been running. Suriname would have to wait a further eight years before they could boast of an Olympic participant.

9. South Korea cooks up a dodgy decision

Roy Jones Jr reached the final of the 1988 Seoul Olympics boxing competition without losing a single round en-route. He was equally dominant in the final against the South Korean Park Si-Hun, landing 86 punches to Park's 32.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, the judges awarded the decision to Park Si-Hun, who was sufficiently embarrassed by the win to apologise to Jones. All three judges voting against Jones were suspended and a 1997 IOC investigation found that they had been wined and dined by South Korean officials.

8. Never use wax as suntan lotion

Portugal's first involvement at the Olympic games came at the 1912 event in Stockholm. They were represented in the marathon by Francisco Lazaro, who tragically became the first athlete to die during an Olympic event.

Lazaro collapsed at the 18 mile mark, with the original cause of death given as severe dehydration. However, it later emerged that Lazaro had covered large portions of his body with beeswax to prevent sunburn, which stopped him from sweating and caused his death.

7. 'Eric the Eel' swims solo

The 2000 Sydney Olympics featured a wildcard draw for athletes who had failed to meet the minimum qualification requirements, designed to encourage developing countries. Eric Moussambani was one such beneficiary and represented Equatorial Guinea in the 100m freestyle swimming. When the two competitors in his heat were disqualified, Moussambani was required to swim on his own.

Moussambani's had only started swimming eight months before the event and his preparation took place at a 20m hotel pool. Prior to arriving in Sydney he had not even seen an Olympic-sized 50m swimming pool, so it was perhaps no surprise that Moussambani struggled to make the two required lengths. His time of 1:52:72 broke the Equatoguinean national record for the 100m, but to put that into perspective, it was outside the world record for the 200m. Some called this moment a perfect example of the Olympic ideal, while others labelled it as an of example of a new rule gone wrong.

6. The 15 mile marathon man

The marathon is a gruelling event, but Fred Lorz looked relatively fresh faced as he became the first man to complete the 26 miles in the searing heat of the St Louis Olympics.

Lorz was one of only 14 runners to complete the race and celebrated his victory by posing for photographs with the daughter of President Roosevelt. He was awaiting his gold medal when news emerged that the crafty American had actually been given a lift in the car of his manager for 11 miles of the race, after he collapsed with exhaustion after nine miles. Lorz only got out of the car to run the final six miles of the race after it broke down and once his antics had become public knowledge, he admitted that he'd completed the race as a joke.

5. Boxer moves up in weight mid-Olympic tournament

For a boxer to keep within their weight limit requires a great deal of hard work and discipline, so few would blame the South African lightweight Thomas Hamilton-Brown for indulging in an eating binge after being beaten in the 1936 Berlin Olympics competition.

Several days later however, it was discovered that Hamilton-Brown should have been awarded the decision against the Chilean Carlos Lillo. He was reinstated into the competition, only to find that he was 5 lbs over the lightweight limit after enjoying a little too much of the German cuisine.

4. Cuban taekwando ace is no angel

You don't want to get on the wrong side of a taekwondo expert, as Angel Matos revealed in the 2008 Beijing games. The Cuban was a gold medalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was competing for the bronze medal against Kazakhstan's Arman Chilmanov in China.

Having picked up an injury, Matos was required to return to the centre of the ring within one minute, or would forfeit the match. When that time expired and Matos was still receiving treatment, the Swedish referee Chakir Chelbat disqualified him. Matos reacted by kicking Chelbat in the face and was subsequently banned for life by the World Taekwondo Federation.

3. The trigger is mightier than the sword

The Ukranian pentathlete Boris Onischenko won a silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics and was hoping to go one better in 1976 at Montreal. His hopes were dashed when he met Jim Fox in the fencing and the Brit discovered something strange about his swordplay.

Even when Onischenko's epee was clearly missing Fox, the Soviet was still scoring points. An investigation revealed that Onischenko's sword was fitted with a trigger that allowed him to score points at will, regardless of whether he was catching his opponent. The trigger-happy multi-eventer was disqualified from the competition.

2. Slow coach delays sprinters

Wym Essajas might have have been the lucky one when he slept through his 800m race. Some twelve years later at the 1972 Moscow Olympics, the American sprinters Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart were the co-favourites to win the 100m, but were given the wrong starting time for the second qualifying heat by their coach Stan Wright.

While Essajas was able to doze in blissful ignorance while his race took place, Robinson and Hart realised that their event was starting without them just in time to watch the painful scenes unfold before their eyes on TV.

1. The world's greatest female athlete hides secret weapon

Stanlislawa Walasiewiczowna was born in Wierzchowina, Poland, in 1911 and would change her name to Stella Walsh after her family emigrated to Cleveland. She would represent her native Poland in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, winning gold in the 100m.

Four years later in Berlin, Walsh would win a silver medal in the same event and in total broke 20 track and field world records. In 1980 at the age of 69, Walsh was shot as a bystander during an armed robbery. The autopsy threw up a surprise result when it was discovered that Walsh had male sex organs. Some sources claim that his/her genitalia also displayed female characteristics and a biological test revealed that Walsh had both an XX and an XY set of chromosomes.

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20 July 2011


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