Fact of the Day

Raw steak and salad inspire a future military great

When George S. Patton, Jr was preparing for the modern pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm he used to eat a plate of raw steak and salad after each training session. On the final day of the competition, he prepared for the cross-country run by receiving an injection of opium. The regime saw Patton finish fifth. He later found greater fame for commanding the U.S. Seventh Army in the Mediterranean and European during World War Two and for his leadership of the U.S. Third Army in France and Germany following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

Colonial India inspired by own flag before winning Olympic gold medal

As India was a British colony, its athletes had to march behind Great Britain's flag at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. But in the dressing room before their final match against Germany, India's hockey team saluted the tricolor flag of the Indian National Congress. The team went on to win 8-1, with Dhyan Chand scoring six goals playing barefoot, to claim the gold medal. 

How little-known British fencer ended up playing James Bond

British fencer Steven Paul competed at three Olympic Games - Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984 and Barcelona 1992 - without winning a medal. He found more success after he retired when he trained Pierce Brosnan for his fencing scenes in the James Bond film Die Another Day and served as the actor's double for the more technical shots in the movie released in 2002. The film earned $432 million worldwide, becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of the year. 

Rowing saves life of double Olympic gold medallist

At the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Britain's Hugh "Jumbo" Edwards won the gold medal in the coxless pairs event with Lewis Clive and a second gold in the coxless four on the same day. During World War Two it was his rowing ability which saved his life. While serving as a squadron leader with the Royal Air Force's Coastal Command in 1943, he was forced to ditch his plane in the Atlantic Ocean. He rowed a dingy four miles through a minefield to safety. He was the only member of the plane's crew to survive. 

Medal won, lost and recovered

During the Italian rowing team's celebration after winning the quadruple sculls at Seoul 1988, David Tizzano was thrown into the water and lost his Olympic gold medal on the muddy bottom of the Han River. A South Korean diver, working as a security guard at the regatta course, retrieved it after a 50-minute search. Eight years later, in Atlanta, Tizzano won a second gold medal in the double scull. 

Same flag, different countries...

When Liechtenstein made its Olympic debut at Berlin in 1936 they discovered that the country's flag of two equal horizontal bands of blue on the top and red was identical to that of Haiti. It led to a crown being added to the top left hand corner of Liechtenstein's flag the following year to differentiate it. But it was not until 1976 that it got hoisted at an Olympic medal ceremony when Hanni Wenzel won a bronze in the giant slalom at the Winter Games in Innsbruck.

Athens 1896 suffered from lack of exposure

When the first Olympics of the Modern era were held, at Athens in 1896, they were officially covered by only seven photographers taking less than 100 pictures in total. By comparison, photographers working for Getty Images at Rio 2016 took 1.5 million pictures alone. Five Greek, one American and one German photographer were commissioned to record the photographically at Athens 1896. The most important among them was the German Albert Meyer, who was superior to the other photographers both technically and aesthetically. At least 56 pictures were taken by him, the most famous of which was of the marathon winner Spyridon Louis. Meyer died penniless in 1923 after losing his fortune in the German hyperinflation crisis.

Hockey removed from Olympic programme for Paris 1924 before restructuring

Hockey was removed from the Olympic programme at the 1924 Paris Games due to the lack of an international sporting structure. The International Hockey Federation was founded that year as a response to the omission. Men's hockey was readmitted for Amsterdam 1928 and has appeared on the programme ever since. The sport suffered a scare following London 2012, however, when it was one of several sports considered for exclusion by the International Olympic Committee's ruling Executive Board. In the end, they recommended wrestling be dropped after Rio 2016 before a determined campaign saw the sport saved. 

Form book thrown out of the window when table tennis made its Olympic debut

When table tennis made its debut in the Olympics at Seoul in 1988 the men's competition was notable for the fact that none of the top five seeded players made it to the semi-finals. Among those defeated in the quarter-finals was two-time world champion Jiang Jialiang, one of China's biggest sports stars at the time, who was defeated in four games by tenth-ranked Erik Lindh from Sweden. The shock defeats for the top players meant that the final was an all-South Korean affair between Yoo Nam-Kyu and Kim Ki-Taik. Yoo triumphed in four games. Lindh, meanwhile, won the bronze medal. Yoo also won a bronze medal at Seoul 1988 in the men's doubles. Four years later he won the bronze medal in the men's doubles together with Kim and at Atlanta 1996 he claimed another bronze medal in the men's doubles, this time together with Lee Chul-seung.

The Olympics three cities were chosen to host but never took place

Three different cities were selected to host the 1940 Winter Olympics before the event was finally cancelled. They were originally awarded to Sapporo but the Japanese organisers withdrew in 1938 because of the second Second Sino-Japanese War. The International Olympic Committee decided to give the Games instead to St. Moritz, host of the 1928 event. There were some problems, however,  between the Swiss organisers and the IOC so the Games were cancelled again. The IOC then awarded them to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the German city which had hosted the Games in 1936. The event was due be held from February 2 until 11 but was abandoned following the start of World War Two. St Moritz were awarded the 1948 Winter Olympics and had only 18 months to organise them. Sapporo finally got to hold the Winter Olympics in 1972. 

London replaces Rome to save the 1908 Olympics

The 1908 Olympics were due to be held in Rome, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 left Italy needing to divert resources into disaster relief and rebuilding. With time running out, the International Olympic Committee asked Britain to step in as host. That gave London less than two years to prepare. But with Lord Desborough, the British Olympic Association's chairman, to the fore, and the support of King Edward VII, the challenge was accepted. A Franco-Britannic Exhibition was to be held in West London in 1908, and Desborough signed a deal that meant, in return for a share of gate receipts, the exhibition organisers agreed to fund and build a 66,000-capacity stadium next to their site, and even donated £2,000 towards its running costs.

Historical inaccuracy on Olympic medal from Amsterdam 1928 not corrected for 76 years

A new Olympic medal was distributed to winners at Athens 2004, replacing a long-standing one by Giuseppe Cassioli, an Italian who had designed the medals for Amsterdam 1928 with the Greek goddess Nike shown on the medals, seated on a chariot with a wreath in one hand and an ear of corn in the other, symbolically honoring winning athletes. Next to Nike was usually a stadium that looked a lot like a Roman amphitheatre. The error was finally corrected 76 years later when Elena Votsi, a Greek artist, was chosen to design the medals when the Games returned to Athens. Votsi's design had a winged, almost angelic Nike boldly swooshing down feet-first from the heavens, delivering the laurel in the Panathenaic Stadium, the all-marble venue for archery and the finish line of the marathon at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Her Nike is based on a marble statue by the sculptor Paionios of Chalkidiki from 421 B.C. In the background of the medal is the Acropolis, a design that has remained for subsequent Games. 

Kozakiewicz's gesture causes an international incident at Moscow 1980

Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz gestured angrily at spectators following his winning leap to secure the Olympic gold medal at Moscow 1980 after they had booed, hissed, jeered, and whistled him during the competition, where his closest rival was the Soviet Union's Konstantin Volkov. Pictures of the incident circled the globe, with the exception of the Soviet Union and its satellites, although the event was broadcast live on TV in many countries there. Kozakiewicz's act received much support in Poland, which was in the midst of labour strikes that led to the creation of the labor union Solidarity less than two months later. After the Games, the Soviet ambassador in Warsaw demanded that Kozakiewicz be stripped of his medal over his "insult to the Soviet people". The official response of the Polish Government was that Kozakiewicz's arm gesture had been an involuntary muscle spasm caused by his exertion. To this day in Poland the obscene insult is called "Kozakiewicz's gesture".

The greatest judoka in Olympic history

Japan's Tadahiro Nomura is widely considered the greatest judoka in Olympic history, having won gold medals in the under 60 kilogram category at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens. Nomura is only judoka to have won three consecutive Olympic gold medals. He was first Olympic competitor from Asia to win three consecutive gold medals in any event. His win in Athens was 100th gold medal won by Japan in the Summer Olympics since the country's debut at Stockholm in 1912. Nomura's father was the coach of Shinji Hosokawa, winner of an Olympic gold medal at Los Angeles 1984 in the same division. Nomura's uncle, Toyokazu Nomura, meanwhile, was also an Olympic gold medalist at Munich 1972 in the under 70 kg division.

The Olympic marathon runner who took more than 50 years to finish the race

Kanakuri Shizō, a Japanese marathon runner, went missing during the race at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. He stopped at a party taking place in a villa on the marathon route in order to quench his thirst, then caught a train to the Swedish capital and left the country the next day. He returned to Japan without notifying race officials. But 50 years later, after being invited back by the Swedish authorities, he completed the race with an unofficial time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds. Portugal's Francisco Lázaro died from heat exhaustion during, the only athlete to die during the running of an Olympic marathon.