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13 Olympic Moments that Changed History


Paris, 1900: First female athletes

 Women were never allowed to compete in the Olympics until the Paris Games in 1900, when their participation in lawn tennis and golf events secured a position for female athletes in future Games. The London 2012 Olympics signifies a new gender milestone with the debut of Women's Boxing, and it will also be the first Games in Olympic history with female athletes from every competing country. 


Berlin, 1936: Owens breaks records


African-American athlete Jesse Owens broke records and won several gold medals, shattering Hitler’s aim to use the 1936 Games as an example of the “new Aryan man.” Owens later befriended his German competitor in the long jump, Luz Long, and the pair's lap of honor became a symbol of the triumph of sportsmanship over Nazi ideology.


 London, 1948: Wheelchair athletes compete

 English doctor Ludwig Guttmann founded the International Wheelchair Games to help rehabilitate wounded veterans of World War II. Using sports therapy, he invited wheelchair athletes to compete, and the event eventually became the modern Paralympic Games.


Rome, 1960: Television, and scandals

 As the first Olympics ever to be televised and include a brand endorsement by an athlete, the Rome Games ushered in a new era of commercialism and changed the way the world viewed its Olympians. The Games also spotlighted a negative side of the competition with the first doping scandal, revealing how far some athletes would go to bring home the gold.


Mexico City, 1968: Civil-rights protest

 At the height of the civil rights movement in the U.S., black American athletes were encouraged to boycott the Games. Instead, African-American sprinters John Carlos (right) and Tommie Smith (left) staged a non-violent protest by raising their fists in a Black Power salute while the national anthem played during their medal ceremony. Although they were consequently suspended from the Olympic Village, their silent demonstration brought the American battle over civil rights to the international stage.


Munich, 1972: Terror replaces peace

 Tragedy infamously marred the Munich Games when 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists. Although the Olympics continued and the incident led to increased security, the message of international peace promoted by the Games was permanently damaged.


Montreal, 1976: African nations boycott

 Human rights was at the forefront of the Montreal Games after 22 African nations boycotted the Olympics because New Zealand was participating. Earlier that year, New Zealand sparked outrage among African countries when it send its national rugby team to play in South Africa, which was under apartheid. This marked the first of several politically-motivated boycotts of the Olympics.


Moscow, 1980: U.S. boycotts, hosts alternate games

 With the Cold War ongoing, President Jimmy Carter urged U.S. allies to pull their Olympic teams from the Games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. did not participate in the Olympics that summer, and instead hosted the Liberty Bell Classic in Philadelphia as an alternative competition for athletes of countries supporting the boycott.


Barcelona, 1992: Pros play the Olympics

 The 1992 U.S. Men's Olympic basketball team, nicknamed the "Dream Team" for its impressive line-up of the biggest names in basketball—Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing to name a few—was the first time active NBA players were recruited for an Olympic team. The team crushed the competition as it made its way towards the final (winning all eight games) and ultimately defeated Croatia to bring home the gold medal. Still today, the Dream Team is widely celebrated as the greatest team ever assembled in any sport.


Atlanta, 1996: Games turn 100 with Ali

 Despite his struggles with Parkison's disease, former heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Games. It was an emotional start to the Olympics' Centennial.


Sydney, 2000: North and South Korea unite

 In a short-lived moment of alliance, North and South Korea marched together for the first time in Sydney's opening ceremony. Rather than carry their respective national flags, the North and South Korean teams (in identical uniforms) joined hands and waved a unification flag featuring a blue map of Korea.


Athens, 2004: Medal design corrected

 A new medal was distributed to winners at the Athens Games, replacing the long-standing design by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Cassioli that incorrectly depicted the Roman Colosseum rather than a Greek venue. Olympic medals now feature the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, one of the world's oldest stadiums and the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.


Beijing, 2008: Phelps takes most gold ever

 On August 17, Phelps won his eighth gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay, breaking Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals won in a single Olympic Games, which had stood since 1972.  Phelps, along with teammates Brendan Hansen, Aaron Peirsol, and Jason Lezak, set a new world record in the event with a time of 3 minutes and 29.34 seconds, 0.7 seconds ahead of second-place Australia and 1.34 seconds faster than the previous record set by the United States at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. When Phelps dived in to swim the 100-meter butterfly leg, the third leg of the 400-meter medley, the United States had been trailing Australia and Japan. Phelps completed his split in 50.1 seconds, the fastest butterfly split ever for the event, giving teammate Jason Lezak a more than half-second lead for the final leg, which he held onto to clinch the event in world record time. Said Phelps, upon completing the event that awarded him his eighth gold medal and eighth Olympic record in as many events, "Records are always made to be broken no matter what they are ... Anybody can do anything that they set their mind to."







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