Fact of the Day
Russia has competed at the Olympics on many occasions, but as different nations in its history. As the Russian Empire, the nation first participated at Paris 1900, and returned again at London 1908 and Stockholm 1912. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, and the subsequent establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922, it would be 30 years until Russian athletes competed at the Olympics, as the Soviet Union at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia competed as part of the Unified Team in 1992 at Albertville for the Winter Games and Barcelona for the Summer. They finally returned once again as Russia at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
Mexico made its debut in the Winter Olympics at St Moritz in 1928 when they competed in the five-man bobsleigh, finishing 11th. They did not take part in the Winter Games again until Sarajevo 1984 when they sent as its sole competitor German-born Alpine skier Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who had been born in Mexico while his father was working for Volkswagen there. He has subsequently competed for Mexico at Calgary 1988, Albertville 1992, Lillehammer 1994 and Vancouver 2010, where at 51 he was the oldest competitor in the Games.
Australia became the first Southern Hemisphere nation to claim a gold medal at the Winter Olympics when Steven Bradbury won the 1,000 metres short track speed skating in bizarre circumstances at Salt Lake City in 2002. Well off the pace Bradbury was positioned at the rear in the semi-final, only to see his rivals crash into each other, allowing him to reach the final. Again well off the pace in the final all four other competitors crashed at the final corner, leaving Bradbury to take victory. Bradbury was also part of the relay team that had won Australia's first Winter Olympics medal, a bronze, at Lillehammer in 1994.
America's Tara Lipinski became the youngest ever individual gold medalist in the history of the Olympic Winter Games when, at the age of 15, she won the women's figure skating at Nagano in 1998. In the long programme, Lipinski performed seven triples, including a historic triple loop/triple loop combination and, at the very end, a triple toe/half loop/triple salchow sequence, to overtake teammate Michelle Kwan for the gold medal. Lipinski turned professional shortly afterwards and is now a sports commentator for Universal Sports.
The only person to win the same event in both Summer and Winter Olympics was Sweden's Gillis Grafström. He won figure skating gold medals at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, when the sport was part of the programme for the Summer Games, and then at the inaugural Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924. He retained his title at St Moritz in 1928 and claimed silver at Lake Placid 1932, where his chances of a fourth consecutive gold medal were ended when he collided with a photographer on the ice.
In 1984, the Berlin street known as Stadionallee - Stadium Boulevard - south of the Olympic Stadium in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf was renamed Jesse-Owens-Allee in recognition of the four gold medals that the American had won there in 1936. Owens' widow Ruth and his three daughters attended the dedication ceremonies as guests of the German Government. A memorial plaque for Owens is also located at the Olympiastadion. In the same year, a secondary school in Berlin-Lichtenberg, was named after Owens.
American Eddie Eagan is the only person to win a gold medal at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games in different events. The Harvard and Oxford University law graduate won a gold medal in light-heavyweight boxing at Antwerp in 1920 and then, 12 years later, was a member of the United States four-man bobsleigh team that won at Lake Placid. Later, the Denver-born Eagan became a lawyer, and served in the army as a colonel during the Second World War.
Canadian ice hockey legend Syl Apps, winner of three Stanley Cup titles at the Toronto Maple Leafs, was also a world-class pole vaulter. He won the gold medal in the event at the 1934 British Empire Games in London and finished sixth at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. An outstanding all-round sportsman, Apps also captained the McMaster University football team to an inter-collegiate title in 1936. Apps was a Conservative member of the Ontario Parliament between 1963 and 1974 and served in the Cabinet as Minister of Corrections.
Edwin Flack was Australia's only representative at Athens 1896 Olympics but managed to finish eighth in the overall medals table on his own. Flack, an accountant for Price, Waterhouse & Co in New York City, first won the 1500 metres and then claimed victory in the 800m. He also took part in the tennis doubles with British friend George S. Robertson, although they lost their only match in the semi-finals. He might have won a third gold medal as he was leading the marathon with less than two miles to go but collapsed. He was so delirious that, when a Greek spectator tried to help him, Flack punched him.
There have been four deaths at the Winter Olympics. The first was Britain's Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski, who died during a training run for the luge at Innsbruck in 1964. Three days later Australian downhill skier Ross Milne also died when he struck a tree during a practice run. The next death did not occur until Albertville 1992 when Nicolas Bochatay, competing in speed skiing, a demonstration event at the Games, collided with a snow grooming vehicle. Georgia's luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was the last person to be killed when, during a training run on the morning of the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony, he crashed and died.
St. Moritz was chosen to host the 1948 Winter Olympics ahead of Lake Placid in the United States because it was in Switzerland, who had remained neutral during World War Two. As St Moritz had already staged the Games in 1928 the International Olympic Committee also believed that it would make the organisation simpler and more economical. But, despite the existence of many of the venues, it was still a difficult task to organise the Games in less than 18 months, including the building of several new railway stations. Switzerland has not hosted the Olympics since, despite bidding four times.
Greece's Dimitrios Loundras is the youngest known Olympic medallist. He was 10 years 218 days old when he was part of the Ethnikos Gymnastikos Syllogos team that won a bronze medal in the team parallel bars at Athens in 1896, although only three teams took part in the competition. Loundras subsequently served in both World Wars and reached the rank of admiral in the Greek navy. He was the last surviving participant from those Games, which marked the revival of the Olympic Movement, eventually dying in 1971 at the age of 85.
Readers of Yugoslav newspapers were asked to pick the mascot for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo from a list of six finalists. The winner was Vučko, a wolf designed by Slovenian illustrator Jože Trobec. The other finalists were a chipmunk, a lamb, a mountain goat, a porcupine, and a snowball. According to Trobec, the little bad wolf made cute symbolised the human desire "to be friend with animals and become closer to nature". Vučko signalled his excitement with a "Sarajevoooo" howl and still enjoys huge popularity among Sarajevans.
Underwater swimming featured in the 1900 Olympics in Paris but was quickly dropped because of the lack of spectator appeal. A total of 14 swimmers from four countries took part in the event, held in the River Seine, and the result was decided by one point for each second and two points for each metre swum underwater being awarded. The winner was France's Charles de Vendeville ahead of compatriot André Six and Denmark's Peder Lykkeberg. De Vendeville was killed in 1914 at the start of World War One.
Many countries may have boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow following the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan but the Games were still a major success. A total of 36 world records, 39 European records and 74 Olympic records were broken. Meanwhile, more than five million people attended the 203 events in 21 sports, 1.5 million more than had watched the previous Olympics at Montreal four years earlier.