Beijing 2008: Top 10 Olympic scandals, hissy fits and tantrums
Posted by E on August 23, 2008
This has been one colourful Olympics. For every glorious moment of well-deserved glory for winning athletes, there was a hissy fit, temper tantrum and otherwise classy behaviour from others not quite caught in the Olympic spirit.
It took until the last day to get our gold-medal moment of shame, which I will arbitrarily award to Cuba’s Angel Matos, but there are many other honorable mentions. So here they are, our spectacular lineup of athletic sportsmanship: *drumroll*
GOLD MEDAL LOSER: taekwondo (curtesy of CBC)
Taekwondo athlete Angel Matos of Cuba faces a lifetime ban after kicking the referee in the face following his disqualification in a bronze-medal match Saturday at the Beijing Games. Matos’s coach Leudis Gonzalez also faces a lifetime ban in response to the incident that took place at the end of the men’s over-80 kg bout.
“We didn’t expect anything like what you have witnessed to occur,” said World Taekwondo Federation secretary general Yang Jin-suk. “I am at a loss for words.”
SILVER MEDAL LOSER: wrestling (Courtesy of the Telegraph.uk)
Abrahamian threw down his 84kg greco-roman bronze in disgust after his shot at gold was ended by a decision denounced by the Swedish coach as “politics”. Abrahamian took the medal from around his neck during the medal ceremony, stepped from the podium and dropped it in the middle of the mat before storming off. The Swedish wrestler had to be restrained by team-mates earlier as a row erupted with judges over the decision in a semi-final bout with Andrea Minguzzi of Italy, who went on to the take gold. Abrhamian, who won silver at the Athens 2004 Games, shouted at the referee, then went over to confront judges, angrily throwing off the restraining arm of a team official. Swedish fans booed loudly as the judges filed out of the arena. Abrahamian said nothing to waiting reporters but whacked an aluminium barricade with his fist as he left the hall.
Abrahamian was eventually stripped of his bronze medal by the IOC because of this tantrum.
BRONZE MEDAL LOSER: fencing
I have decided to remove this particular entry because it is time to put this incident to rest.
OTHER (DIS)HONORABLE MENTIONS:
These other guys didn’t throw hissy fits during their matches, but must be included nonetheless in order to have a complete account of Beijing 2008’s various petty dramas:
4. The lip-synching fiasco:
The golden Olympic opening ceremonies was somewhat tarnished by news accounts that some of the fireworks had been computer-added to the program we all saw, and that the pretty little girl in the red dress who sang so sweetly was actually lip-syncing, with the original pre-recorded child singer deemed “too ugly” by the Chinese program directors, because she had a missing tooth and buck teeth.
5. The underage gymnast scandal
Chinese gymnasts are very likely younger than the minimum allowed age of 16 – and certificates have been “doctored” by Chinese officials in order to allow them to participate, leading to a team gold medal and several other gold and silver medals that weren’t deserved. While this cheating allegation is currently being seriously investigated by the IOC, (one of the girls even admitted in a Chinese television interview last year that she was 14!) nobody is batting an eye at all the horrendous Chinese child labour practices that are going on in factories across China in order to feed the government coffers that wasted spent a disgusting 43 billion dollars in showing the world that “we do Olympics better than everybody else.”
Ok, I know a lot of people are saying in defense of the Chinese “Asian kids are much smaller than Western ones”, but let me tell you something. I taught kids in Korea for a whole year, and I did travel to China as well, and I’ve never taught a sixteen-year old who looked that young. From my guestimate as a teacher in Asia, three out of the six girls are 12 or 13 years old.
6. The Spanish slanty-eyes photos
This one speaks for itself. But apparently it wasn’t meant to be offensive, as hard as that may be to swallow. The Spanish basketball team (and their supporters – in the other photos) took out ads featuring this photo, saying “We are prepared for China!”; that is to say, being prepared for Chinese competition meant seeing things through their competitors’ eyes…
7. Accusations of bribery and manipulation in Boxing:
Bought boxing matches, what else is new? I only watched two matches before being too disgusted to continue. Read the account, courtesy of Yahoo News:
Boxing officials were battling to contain a major scandal on Saturday as serious claims of bribery and the manipulation of Olympic judging panels emerged after a series of disputed bouts.
The International Boxing Association (AIBA) suspended Romanian technical delegate Rudel Obreja after he held an impromptu and rowdy press conference and made lurid allegations against senior officials.
AIBA also revealed that it had been tracking “possible attempts of manipulation” for more than two months and had brought in an International Olympic Committee (IOC) observer “when the situation became more serious”.
8. The paralyzed dancer
Because of sloppy platforms and mishandling, a 26-year old woman who was supposed to perform a 2-minute solo dance at the Olympic opening ceremonies, a prize-winning and talented top Chinese dancer, fell and broke her back, resulting in complete paralysis from the waist down. Apparently she had laid in agony for 50 minutes while the emergency medical crew had to endure a lengthy security check. One wonders if more immediate attention and packing of her back in ice could have prevented to extent of the damage.
At first this story was given the usual sanitized Chinese cover-up. But as more stories emerged about the young Mongolian woman who came from nothing, and for whom dance was everything, the media picked up on it. The photo shows the brave face Liu Yan puts on as she wishes the best of luck to her country’s athletes. You have to hope that the Chinese government will be prepared to pay for her lifelong care, rehabilitation therapy and give her a generous pension. You just have to hope.
9. The Grannies sentenced to a year in a re-education labour camp
Two frail-looking Chinese women in their late 70s have caused a storm in China by applying to protest during the Olympics. They’ve embarrassed the Beijing authorities and so earnt themselves a one-year sentence to re-education through labour for disturbing the public order, and that’s even before they got a chance to actually protest. Their case has led to criticism that the so-called Olympic protest parks were never intended to allow people to demonstrate during the Games.
In an interview, neighbours Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, said they had not received compensation after their homes were demolished by the city government seven years ago and were simply fighting for their rights.
In an interview, Wang (who is blind in one eye) and Wu were seated together in a ramshackle one-room apartment without electricity in which Wu now lives after her home in central Beijing was demolished to make way for a development.
“We have done nothing wrong,” said Wang.
“They won’t let me protest, then they sentence me to a year labour camp. […] It’s not fair.”
Thankfully, after all the media attention, their sentences have now been suspended, on the condition that they “behave well”. Read: no more protests for grandma.
10. The constant police presence. Read an excerpt from Globe&Mail’s article by G York:
Many of China’s security measures at the Olympics seemed to be symbolic threats, aimed at sending a strong warning message, rather than having any practical purpose. Why did China park an armoured vehicle outside the main Olympic Press Centre? Why did police walk through the crowd at Ditan Park last Sunday, taking photos of every citizen who was watching the closing ceremony on giant outdoor screens? Ditan Park is an ordinary park, not an Olympic venue, and nothing except the large television screens had any connection to the Olympics. Why did the police need to photograph everyone at the park?
I am leaving any other Olympic scandals that come to mind to the readers’ vote – what other dark moment sticks in your mind as an embarrassment to the Beijing 2008 Olympics? Please feel free to contribute your suggestions.