Canada’s 99 year-olds

Along with Egypt, Canada is one of two countries that we at Oldest Olympians know best. While Egypt has a lengthy Olympic history of a thousand competitors, Canada has had nearly four times that many, which makes keeping track of them all, particularly those from the earliest Games, a nearly impossible task. Among Canada’s 3500+ Olympians, we have been unable to identify a single one who lived to the age of 100. For today’s blog, therefore, we decided to highlight the three Olympians who almost made it that far and celebrate their lives and sporting legacies.

Robert Zimmerman – Diver and Swimmer at the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics: Despite having represented the country twice at the Games, our first entry on this list was not even a Canadian: he was born and died in the United States and never acquired Canadian citizenship. In the era of fluid boundaries, however, being a member of the Montreal Swimming Club was sufficient for the Olympics to consider him Canadian and thus he marched in the Opening Ceremony for that nation both times. He took part in three events in 1908, one diving and two swimming, but was eliminated in the opening round of all of them. He was more successful in 1912, however, coming in fifth in the springboard competition.

During his athletic career, Zimmerman was active in no fewer than nine different sports, but it was in the water that he was most at home. Of his many careers following his return to the United States, he was most well-known as a deep-sea diver. As he aged, he set himself the goal of completing a 35-mile canoe race for his 100th birthday. Unfortunately, he died just one day after his 99th birthday, which, for many years, made him the longest-lived Canadian Olympian of all time.

Sandy MacDonald – Sailor at the 1960 and 1964 Summer Olympics: Like Zimmerman, Sandy MacDonald was prolific in several different athletic pursuits. He played football and ice hockey in his youth and was even selected to represent Great Britain in the latter at the 1928 Winter Games. His Canadian citizenship eventually disqualified him, and thus his Olympic debut would have to wait 32 years, when he competed in Dragon Class sailing at the 1960 Summer Games. He finished fifth in this edition, and seventh four years later in the 5.5 Metres class. His most notable accomplishment in sailing was his gold medal from the Dragon Class tournament at the 1963 Pan American Games.

MacDonald was a surgeon by profession, but continued to complete in sailing for many years. He celebrated his 99th birthday on September 7, 2003 but, unfortunately, died 44 days later. He remains, as of this posting, the longest-lived Canadian Olympian.

Thelma Boughner – Diving at the 1936 Summer Olympics: Unlike Zimmerman and MacDonald, Thelma Boughner had a quieter profile. She competed in both women’s diving events at the 1936 Summer Games, placing 15th and 22nd in the springboard and platform respectively. She blamed her results on being poisoned by a German dentist shortly before her participation. World War II ended her career, and she later moved to the United States after marrying a Navy pilot, where she ran a successful chain of ice cream franchises. For many years, we had limited evidence that she was still alive, and even removed her from our lists at one point. Unfortunately, we learned from her obituary that she died on October 29, 2017, just over a month after her 99th birthday, and had been the oldest living Canadian Olympian for many years.

It should be noted, however, that Canada does hold one interesting longevity record, courtesy of Cecil Smith, pictured above. Smith represented her country at the 1924 and 1928 Winter Olympics as a figure skater, in the former at the age of only 15. Yet although she was “only” 89 years old when she died on November 9, 1997, she was nonetheless the last known surviving competitor from the 1924 Winter Games.

As of this writing, the title of the oldest living Canadian Olympian is shared by the Wurtele sisters, Rhona and Rhoda, born January 21, 1922, who competed in alpine skiing at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games respectively. We hope very much to be writing about them and their sporting accomplishments four years from now in celebration of their longevity! For next week, however, we will be taking a look at the world’s oldest Olympian, John Lysak, who turned 104 just yesterday, and some of the competitors who could (at least in theory) be even older! We hope you’ll join us!

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 4

Today we bring you the final part of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1952 and 1960 Summer Games. After participating in Helsinki, Egypt boycotted the 1956 Olympics in protest of the Suez War, although it sent competitors to the equestrian events, which were held several months prior to the Games due to Australian quarantine restrictions. It then competed in the next three editions as the “United Arab Republic”, due to its political union with Syria, although by 1964 Syria had left the union and in 1960 there is no evidence that any Syrians actually competed in the Games. After earning two medals in 1960, Egypt would only see the podium once more prior to 2004, at which point sport was sufficiently globalized and covered in the media to pre-empt any mysteries surrounding Olympic medalists. Even by 1960 the situation had improved greatly, although there is still a little worth discussing.

Abdel Aal Rashid – Bronze medalist in Featherweight Greco-Roman Wrestling, 1952: Egypt’s only medalist at the 1952 Summer Olympics was Abdel Aal Rashid, who won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling’s featherweight division. As this was his only major international podium finish, there is very little additional information on him available. We uncovered an interview he gave to Al-Ahram after the Games, which confirms his commonly-seen date of birth of December 27, 1927 and gives us a little history of his life, including the fact that he was born and raised in Alexandria. After that, we have been unable to uncover any significant trace of him, or even been able to ascertain whether or not he is still alive (which is certainly within the realm of possibility at the age of 90) as one of the oldest Olympians.

Osman El-Sayed – Silver medalist in Flyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling, 1960: Osman El-Sayed had won a silver medal at the 1955 Mediterranean Games, so he was a little more well-known when he reached the podium at the 1960 Games in flyweight Greco-Roman wrestling. Different sources list his place of birth as either Cairo or Alexandria but, based on the evidence we have seen, we feel that the latter is most likely correct. One difficulty in finding information about him, as we later discovered, was that in Arabic he went by the name “Eid Osman”, which is a common phrase in the language and can be difficult to search for. We were able to find out, however, that he died on April 21, 2013, unfortunately with limited fanfare, despite some sources that continue to list him as still alive.

Abdel Moneim El-Gindy – Bronze medalist in Flyweight Boxing, 1960: Like Osman El-Sayed, Abdel Moneim El-Gindy entered the 1960 Summer Olympics as a known entity, having won gold at the 1959 Mediterranean Games. Of the era’s three medalists, he was probably the most well-known, and the only point of contention is his date of birth: some sources lists June 12, 1936, while others mention December 1936, making it likely that some of these have simply reversed the correct date order (12-6-1936 vs. 6-12-1936). While we are working to clarify this point, we do know that he died March 17, 2011, although unfortunately this coincided with the tumultuous Egyptian Revolution of that year, and thus his death gained less attention than it might have otherwise.

In 1984, Mohamed Ali Rashwan took silver in judo’s open class, which was Egypt’s only Olympic medal between 1960 and its successes at the 2004 Games. From this point on, the nation’s Olympic medalists received the historical attention that they deserved, which means that our job is complete. Of course, we will keep researching and utilizing our contacts to uncover the information that is missing but, in the meantime, it is time to move on to a new topic. Next week we are going to turn to Canada and focus more on our eponymous topic of the oldest Olympians. Canada is a nation that has had three Olympians reach the age of 99 but, to our knowledge, none that have made it to 100. We’ll be taking a looking at these three and featuring the stories of their lives, so we hope you’ll join us!

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 3

Today we bring you Part 3 of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1948 Summer Games. In terms of medal count, this was Egypt’s most successful appearance and, while records were getting better, there still remains some mystery about the medalists from these Games.

Mahmoud Fayad – Olympic Champion in Featherweight Weightlifting: With Ibrahim Shams having moved up a weight category and Saleh Mohamed Soliman having seemingly disappeared from the sporting scene, the two pre-war Egyptian medalists in Olympic featherweight weightlifting were out of contention for the1948 Games. This set the stage for Mahmoud Fayad to triumph in the event and establish his legacy among Egypt’s great champions. A World silver medalist in 1946, he went on to become World Champion in 1949 and 1950, leading to numerous works being written about him. They all agree that he was born March 9, 1925 in Alexandria, while his obituary in Al-Ahram confirms that he died there on December 18, 2002, making him one of the few Egyptian Olympic medalists for whom data is consistent and reliable.

Ibrahim Shams – Olympic Champion in Lightweight Weightlifting: We mentioned last week that Ibrahim Shams took bronze in the featherweight weightlifting tournament at the 1936 Games but, during World War II, he moved up in weight category with great success, as he captured the Olympic lightweight title in 1948. As we mentioned above, we are still trying to determine which (if either) of his birth or death dates was January 15 instead of 16 but, for the most part, information on his life is as consistent as it is with Fayad.

Attia Mohammed – Silver medalist in Lightweight Weightlifting: History has not been as kind, however, to the runner-up to Shams’ victory, Attia Mohammed, another Olympic medalist whose very used name could be the subject of debate. His full name was Attia Mohammed Hamouda, but what he actually went by varies from source to source and tournament to tournament, although “Attia Mohammed” seems most common in Arabic-language materials, although very little was written about him overall. His year of birth (we have no exact date) is seen as both 1914 and 1922, but pictures of him in sporting magazines of the early 1930s demonstrate that the latter is impossible (the one above, for example, comes from a 1934 publication). As for his year of death, the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC) gives 1992, but we have seen no other source to collaborate this, and the lack of an exact date makes it difficult to search for him in the Al-Ahram archives. Thus we continue to seek confirmation.

Mahmoud Hassan – Silver medalist in Bantamweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Mahmoud Hassan was the 1947 bantamweight Greco-Roman World Champion, but he had to settle for silver in that category at the 1948 Summer Olympics. At the 1951 Mediterranean Games, however, he took the gold medal once again. Most sources have him born December 15, 1919 and dying September 10, 1998, but we were unable to verify the latter date in Al-Ahram. While we have no reason to doubt this date, it would be nice to obtain some additional confirmation.

Ibrahim Orabi – Bronze medalist in Light-Heavyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Only by virtue of his longer and more noted career does Ibrahim Orabi surrender the title of Egypt’s most enigmatic Olympic medalist to Saleh Mohamed Soliman. The EOC lists virtually nothing about him, other than that he won a bronze medal in light-heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1948 Games. We also know that he competed as a middleweight at the 1936 edition, where he placed fifth, and won a light-heavyweight silver medal at the 1951 Mediterranean Games. Aside from this, contemporary reports list him as being from Alexandria, and we have no reason to doubt the year of birth of 1912 that we often see ascribed to him. After 1951, he seems to disappear from the historical records and, given that it is highly unlikely (albeit not impossible) that he is still alive, we have been unable to locate any information on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Next week we will be wrapping up this series by looking at Egypt’s medalists from the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, as the nation only saw the podium once more – in 1984 – between 1960 and 2004. We will also finish our survey with a few concluding remarks, before moving on to new topics beginning two weeks from now.

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 2

Today we bring you Part 2 of our attempt to clarify the biographical details of the lives of Egypt’s Olympic medalists and are focusing on the 1936 Summer Games. Although the nation was more successful in 1948 in terms of the medal count, Egypt achieved its highest ranking among countries – 15th – in 1936, with two gold medals, one silver, and two bronze. Despite this, however, there is much that remains unclear about some of the country’s medalists from Berlin.

Khadr El-Touni – Olympic Champion in Middleweight Weightlifting: Khadr El-Touni remains the most famous champion in Egypt and for good reason: his performance in the middleweight weightlifting competition at these Games was so dominant that it would have won him the gold medal in the weight division above his own. He was also a three-time World Champion (1946, 1949, and 1950), a Mediterranean Games champion, and the setter of between 11 and 16 world records. He died after touching electrical wiring in his home in September 1956, and while some sources cite the date as September 25, his obituary appeared in Al-Ahram on September 23, confirming a death date of the 22nd.

Anwar Mosbah – Olympic Champion in Lightweight Weightlifting: Anwar Mosbah shared the 1936 Olympic gold medal in lightweight weightlifting with Austrian Robert Fein but, with all the clamor surrounding El-Touni’s middleweight victory, Mosbah’s achievement was ignored by the Egyptian media. He eventually built up a reputation as a coach and trainer, however, and although his death was once reported erroneously by the local media, sources consistently list the correct date as November 25, 1998, as well as a date of birth of April 8, 1913.

Saleh Mohamed Soliman – Silver medalist in Featherweight Weightlifting: An inquiry regarding Saleh Mohamed Soliman was what gave us the idea to write about this topic in the first place. Even his preferred name is unclear, as all possible combinations of his three names appear in Arabic sources, which also often list him without even a year of birth. They do agree, however, that he was 20 years old when he won the Olympic silver medal in featherweight weightlifting in 1936, so we have no reason to doubt that his date of birth is June 24, 1916, as claimed by the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC). Beyond that, there is no additional information about the rest of his life, as he never appeared in other major tournaments or received much attention from the Egyptian press. Thus the question of when – and even if, since it is possible that he is still alive – he died remains open. Some Arabic sources list him as the same weightlifter who won gold and silver medals respectively in the middle-heavyweight division of the 1951 and 1955 Mediterranean Games, who was born c. 1917 and went by the name of Mohamed Ibrahim Saleh. We have no evidence to confirm a connection the two, however, and, given the significant differences in weight categories, we believe this to be in error.

Ibrahim Shams – Bronze medalist in Featherweight Weightlifting: Coming in behind Saleh Mohamed Soliman in men’s featherweight weightlifting was a much more well-known athlete, Ibrahim Shams. Shams went on to become an Olympic champion in the lightweight division in 1948, making him Egypt’s most successful Olympian for the next 64 years, until Greco-Roman wrestler Karem Gaber won a silver medal in 2012 to match the gold medal he earned in 2004. He was also a World and Mediterranean Champion and set six world records. His accomplishments have led to relative consistency with his biographical details, with most sources claiming that he was born on January 16, 1917 and died on his birthday in 2001. Some sources, however, suggest that he was either born or died (but not both) on January 15, and we are working to confirm on which date exactly is correct.

Wasif Ibrahim – Bronze medalist in Light-Heavyweight Weightlifting: Just like Saleh Mohamed Soliman, Wasif Ibrahim’s identity is so muddled that many Arabic sources seem uncertain of his very name. He did, however, continue to compete after winning bronze in the 1936 light-heavyweight weightlifting division, and set a world record in 1938. His date of birth is seen as both November 4, 1908 and September 24, 1912, with the 1908 date being what is used by the EOC. The EOC also mentions his date of death as May 17, 1975, although we were unable to confirm this as we could not find an obituary for him in Al-Ahram around this time, making it possible that this information is incorrect.

After 1936, war intervened and the Olympics did not reconvene until 1948. By medal tally, these Games would be Egypt’s most successful and, while record keeping was getting better, there are still mysteries to be had. Tune in next week for Part 3, where we’ll try to clear up some of the confusion regarding these athletes.

Egypt’s Olympic Medalists – Part 1

For our first Oldest Olympians blog post, we are talking about Egypt; specifically, Egypt’s Olympic medalists, which has been an area of focus for us here during our research in Cairo. Our inspiration for this post stemmed from a response we received when we posted about Mohamed Selim Zaki being the oldest living Egyptian Olympian. They contacted us to inquire about Saleh Soliman, born June 24, 1916, who won a silver medal in men’s featherweight weightlifting in 1936. The implication was that, surely, if an Olympic medalist had died, the world would know about it.

The unfortunate truth is, however, that almost no nation has a perfect record for keeping track of their Olympic medalists. We have already discussed, for example, Belgian Olympic champion Micheline Lannoy, as well as the Mohawk Indian lacrosse team from 1904. There are, however, many others like them. Just counting athletes that could potentially be alive, we have 13 silver medalists and 31 bronze medalists for whom we have no information about their living status, the majority of whom were born in the mid-1920s or later. For countries such as Japan, as we learned with Shunpei Uto, part of the problem might be the language barrier. For countries such as Canada or Switzerland, however, the issues are more complex, and perhaps we shall discuss them in another blog post.

We feel that Egypt, however, is a special case, because not only is there much missing information, but the information that is available is often contradicted in other sources. Therefore, we thought that it would be a good use of a blog post to clarify what is known and not known about the lifespans of Egypt’s Olympic medalists from 1928 through 1960, to collect all of our knowledge in one place, and to uncover the truth with definitive sources. Since there are many of them to discuss, however, this week we are going to look into the medalists from 1928.

Sayed NosseirOlympic Champion in Light-Heavyweight Weightlifting: Egypt’s first Olympic champion has also proven, for us at least, one of the more frustrating individuals to uncover information about. Across the numerous biographies that have been written about him, we have seen years of death of 1973, 1974, and 1977, with some containing specific dates such as October 11, November 23, and November 28. We have even seen October 11, 1968, although this report liked conflated him with Ibrahim Moustafa (see below). Egypt’s largest national newspaper, Al-Ahram, does not contain an obituary for Nosseir in the sports section around any of these dates, although the issue is further muddled by the fact that this paper did not print a sports section for much of the latter quarter of 1973, due to regional conflicts. The most common information we see printed is that he died some time in 1974 at the age of 69, which, thanks to the fact that his date of birth is reported remarkably consistently as August 31, 1905, would suggest a date of death in the latter quarter of that year. We will continue to search.

Ibrahim Moustafa – Olympic Champion in Light-Heavyweight Greco-Roman Wrestling: Despite being Egypt’s second Olympic champion, Moustafa received more attention in the media than Nosseir, probably due to the fact that he was more involved with national sport after his victory. Moustafa died while serving as national team coach at the 1968 Summer Olympics, with the date being seen as the 6th, 9th, and 11th of October. Thankfully, we found his obituary on the 10th of October, which states clearly that he died the day before and allows us to be certain about the correct date in this case. As for the date of birth, we see April 20 and September 23 of 1904, but September 23 was printed in his obituary.

Farid Simaika – Silver Medalist in 10m Platform Diving and Bronze Medalist in 3m Springboard Diving: Simaika’s unfortunate death during World War II has made him the Egyptian Olympic medalist about whom information is the most uniform. After becoming an American citizen in 1942, he joined the United States Army, serving during World War II. His plane crashed somewhere in Indonesia on September 11, 1943 and, while various accounts of exactly how he died have been told (everything from at the hands of the Japanese to the spears of tribal head-hunters), it has generally been agreed that he died on that day.

Due to concerns that the country was not being represented in the International Olympic Committee by an actual Egyptian (at the time it was represented by Angelos Bolanki who, although born in Alexandria, was of Greek ancestry), the national Olympic Committee of Egypt declined to participate in the 1932 Games. Therefore, next week we will look into Egypt’s medalists from the 1936 Summer Games held in Berlin, which was host to some of the nation’s greatest successes… and also some of its greatest mysteries! Finally, if you have any topics you would be interested to see covered here, let us know; we’re always open to requests!

My Thoughts on Olympic Bids, Hosts, and Financing

And so Switzerland’s electorate has voted not to pursue the 2026 Winter Olympics for the city of Sion. This occurred shortly before the U.S. Open golf championship was held at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, and a few weeks before The Open Championship of 2018 will be held at Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland. And Wimbledon starts today, with those big Rolex watches at the ends of the main courts, which would never be allowed at the Olympics. What could these possibly have to do with each other? Read on, my friend, and we shall discuss.

For the past decade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has watched in what must be anguish as city after city has spurned their chances to host an Olympic Games or Olympic Winter Games, almost certainly concerned at the cost of hosting for their city, while wondering what exactly are the benefits. Sion was only the latest. Boston, Massachusetts was chosen as a potential host city for 2024 only to reject the offer a few months later. Norway, almost the quintessential host of a Winter Olympics in 1994 with Lillehammer, also voted against bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics. And there were many more, in Germany, in Poland, ad seemingly nauseum.

What should be made of this and what should the IOC do to reverse this trend, with the future of the Olympic Games at risk if adequate cities cannot be found? I think there are a number of things that are possible and some of them relate to the US Open and The Open Championship and how those are conducted. Some of the other thoughts you will read in this post are ideas gleaned from many sources, some would say stolen, though I will give them credit.

The cost of hosting an Olympic Games has risen beyond reason in the last 30 years. Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Olympics for $545.9 million (US)[1] while the cost associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics is often reported to have been $31 billion. The Opening Ceremony at Beijing is reported to have cost $310 million alone. Hosting an Olympics has become an arms race, with each city trying to outdo the previous host, and usually spending more and more money to do that. Almost all agree that the 2008 Opening Ceremony was the nonpareil Olympic ceremony, but basically it’s a party, and if you give me $310 million, I promise I will throw you one hell of a party, too.

Let us pause to remember a voice of reason in the cost of Olympic Games, yet one who is often forgotten, and during the run-up and the hosting of the 1984 Olympics was often vilified by the IOC and the European press because of frugal, often dogmatic ways. Peter Ueberroth was the chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, a Games that ended with a $232.5 million surplus (you cannot call it a profit for US federally recognized non-profit organizations). How did he do it?

First of all, shortly after he was named chairman, Ueberroth went to the Helms Library in Los Angeles (now sited at the LA84 Foundation Library, one of the products of that $232.5 million surplus), and sat down and read all the previous Official Reports to see what previous Games cost, and what the primary source of those costs were. He came to the conclusion that the most important factor in Olympic Games expenses was the building of new stadia, and he vowed that he would host the 1984 Olympics without building new venues.

Ueberroth had an advantage in that Los Angeles has a lot of athletic facilities, but we’ll get to that later. He actually had to build 3 venues – a swim stadium, a velodrome, and a shooting range – but he got McDonald’s to fund the swim stadium and 7-Eleven to fund the velodrome[2], and the shooting range cost was only a rounding error.

What else did Ueberroth do that allowed Los Angeles to arrive at a surplus? In the book on the 1984 Olympics by Kenneth Reich, Making It Happen: Peter Ueberroth and the 1984 Olympics, it is described that when they were deciding on choices and costs, his mantra was, “It should be well done, but not ostentatious.” And it was never ostentatious. It was simple and somewhat austere compared to the Games that would come later, and the IOC thought it was downright cheap, but it worked.

So how can cities and the IOC use this information learned from Peter Ueberroth, a man Dick Pound has described to me as the most important member of the Olympic Movement who never became an IOC Member? Let’s look at The Open Championship and the US Open golf tournament.

The Open Championship (often called the British Open, which the Royal & Ancient hates) is not open to all clubs in the British Isles to host the tournament. It is held on a rota of courses that is predetermined, and currently consists of only 9 courses: St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, Hoylake (Royal Liverpool), Royal St. George’s, and Royal Troon. Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland will host the 2019 Open but it has not hosted since 1951 and is not a part of the normal rota.

The advantage of this is the 9 host courses on the rota all have hosted the tournament before, usually fairly recently. They know how to do it, they have facilities at the ready, they have committees and committee members available who have previous knowledge of hosting an Open Championship.

Compare this to an Olympic Games in the 21st century. It is given to a city often with no previous experience hosting an Olympic Games, such as Rio de Janeiro, Athens (last hosted in 1906), and the like. They don’t know how to do it, they have never hosted, often they don’t always have the facilities and must violate Ueberroth Rule #1 by building stadia all over the place, and they don’t have the experience in committees and committee members.

So should the IOC go to a fixed number of cities to host the Olympic Games? I think they need to do something like this although it may not be cities. In fact, I think the IOC needs to distribute Games to countries because of the venue problems and begin to think of an organized rota of cities / nations to host Olympic Games.

Now in the 1970s and early 1980s when the IOC was broke, before Ueberroth made an Olympics profitable (excuse me, surplusable), and before Juan Antonio Samaranch and Dick Pound started the TOP Program, with the help of Patrick Nally and Michael Payne[3], it was always discussed that the IOC should hold all Olympic Games at one fixed site, with Olympia, Greece always quoted as the site of the Summer Games. Fortunately that talk is over now, as that will never work, certainly not in Olympia, as they have no facilities except those left over from the Ancient Olympics, they have no airport, the bus ride to Olympia takes about 6 hours from Athens, and, well, the Greeks are broke, some of which is still blamed on the 2004 Olympics.

But the IOC could go to a rota of cities and nations. Perhaps consider 3 sites in Europe, 2 sites in North America, 2 sites in Asia, and 2 open sites to rotate between South America, Africa, and Oceania, so that NOCs and IFs would know decades in advance where the Games would be held. It does not always have to be the same site in Europe or North America or Asia, although that would help if cities were to step up. I don’t really care how many cities / nations in the rota or where they are, but I do think the IOC should insist that only cities that already have Olympic facilities available should be allowed in the rota.

The advantages of this idea are that only cities which have the available facilities and don’t require major building projects to host an Olympics will be chosen – see Los Angeles. It also eliminates the now exorbitant cost of bidding for the Games, and often losing the bid. Like the courses that host Open Championships, the cities will also have the experience of hosting a Games, with facilities, infrastructure, and committees and committee members available. Look at Los Angeles, which called on the sporting structure that was formed in the aftermath of the 1984 Olympics, the LA84 Foundation, which was a big part of why their bid for 2024 / 2028 was so solid.

The IOC will not like the rota idea but I think it has to go to something like this. They always say they want to spread the Games to all nations of the world, but that is an idea from the 19th century when the Games had 9 sports, 12 nations, and about 250 competitors (1896 Athens). The Summer Games now have 34 sports, 206 nations, about 11,000 competitors, and even a larger contingent of media of all types. They are now so large that the IOC has to recognize that only a few cities in the world, and only a few nations in the world, can host a modern Olympic Games.

But you will say, “Look, the Games will only return to a city every 32-40 years or so. The personnel experience will be gone by then. That’s no advantage.” And I now give you the US Golf Association (USGA) and how they host US Open Championships for the second main part of my argument.

The US Golf Association does not do a formal rota for the US Open, as does the Royal & Ancient, although it returns to certain sites with some frequency, namely Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Shinnecock Hills, Pinehurst, and Winged Foot, among others. But it allows new clubs to host the Open, such as Erin Hills in 2017, and Chambers Bay in 2016 – both considered now marginal choices.

But what the USGA does is they do not give all the responsibility of organizing an Open to the host club and their organizing committee, as the IOC does. Shortly after the club is awarded a US Open (the time before hosting when it is awarded is variable in the case of the US Open), the USGA starts sending their own team to the club. They live there, they work there. They have worked at previous host clubs – they have the experience. And as the tournament gets close, the USGA presence on site increases, since they know how to run the tournament. They take over. Clubs do not always like this, but it’s a necessary evil to avoid the golfing equivalent of Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC does not do this to any degree. They let the host city form their own organizing committee (OCOG) and give them almost full responsibility. More recently, they have acknowledged that OCOGs need help. Until about 20 years ago, the OCOG had to start from scratch, but the IOC has at least started a clearing house of data from previous hosts called the Olympic Games Knowledge Services (OGKS), which can spread information to new OCOGs. It has also formed the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), to assist and take production duties off the OCOGs. But the OCOG in a new host city usually has no experience, effectively, they have no clue. The OCOG reports to the IOC Coordination Commission periodically and tells them how things are going, and the Coordination Commission visits the city periodically to check on progress.

Slightly more than a year prior to Rio, the IOC Coordination Commission realized Rio needed significant help quickly and dispatched Gilbert Felli to Rio on a full-time basis to get things jump started. Fine, but that was too little, too late. The IOC should follow the lead of the USGA and send an IOC team to the host city shortly after it is awarded the Games – 7 years before they are to host the Games. They are the leaders of the Olympic Movement and they need to develop the personnel and the teams that rotate around to the various sites, and use them.

Remember that the US Open and The Open Championships are large sporting events, but nowhere near as large an Olympic Games, and with nowhere near the complexity. I can’t say how many people from the IOC should be living in the host city or for how long, but I do know that 1 person for 1 year is inadequate for the largest sporting event on the planet. Those IOC teams should comprise people in various categories, experts in things like media, finances, sporting facilities, security, international relations, and others.

There are other things cities can do to decrease the costs of Olympic Games. Michael Payne, former director of marketing at the IOC and then at Formula One, recently tweeted that cities should not be allowed to attach the Olympic title to any infrastructure project they elect to do in preparation for the Olympics (https://twitter.com/MichaelRPayne1/status/1006284904248827906). These are projects cities always want to get done – the ring road around Athens in 2004, the upgrade of Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta in 1996, enlarging the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler in 2010, building a brand new ski resort near Sochi, and many other such projects.

But these are things the cities have usually wanted for themselves for some time, and when they see the Olympics, they find a way to glom these costs onto the Olympic budget. When that happens, Olympic costs can get astronomical. In fact, Dan Doctoroff, former advisor to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, often said that the NYC and Boston Olympic bids could be used by governments to catalyze infrastructure deals that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.[4]

Not well known is that there are three facets of the costs of hosting an Olympic Games, best described by Holger Preuß in his excellent book The Economics of the Olympic Games: A Comparison of the Games 1972-2008, and have also been described more recently in the paper out of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford study by Bent Flyvbjerg, Allison Stewart, and Alexander Budzier: The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games[5]. The three are: 1) operational costs or the costs of running the Olympics for 2 weeks of the Games, and the costs of funding the organizing committee’s work before and after the Games; 2) direct costs, which is what Peter Ueberroth all but eliminated, which is building stadia and other facilities, such as media centers (Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre), and Olympic Villages; and 3) indirect costs, which are the city projects described in the previous paragraph and which escalated beyond belief in the case of Sochi 2014, which built a new ski resort at Krasnaya Polyana for the Mountain Cluster of events, and then built a highway connecting Krasnaya Polyana with Sochi (really Adler, where the Games were actually held).

We’ll start with 3) first, which I already mentioned. Cities have to stop using the Olympic Games for self-improvement projects and then blaming the IOC for the cost of those projects. The IOC does hold the trademark to the word Olympic and as Michael Payne said, they should not allow the word to be used connected to any infrastructure not needed specifically to host the Games.

Aha, you say, but what if this infrastructure is needed to host the Games? By going to a rota, and rarely using new cities, this should not be necessary, and any cities / nations that want to get on the rota should not be allowed if they do not have the necessary infrastructure (see Rio / Sochi).

As to 2), do what Peter Ueberroth said, “Don’t build new facilities.” If you don’t have them, don’t bid for the Olympics. If the city doesn’t have the requisite facilities, the IOC should not award the Games to the city or allow it on the rota. Further, the International Federations (IFs) have to share some of the blame here by demanding more and better facilities, and adding to the host cities arms race. As an example, track cycling is held in a velodrome which few cities outside of France or Japan will ever use outside of the Olympics. It will never pay for itself, but the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) mandates an indoor, fixed wooden track facility. A temporary artificial track can be used, as it was for Atlanta in 1996. The UCI will not like that, but we’re sorry.

If you do need some facilities, temporary is the key word. The US Olympic Swimming Trials has been held in Omaha, Nebraska for the last few Olympics, and Olympic journalist Alan Abrahamson has raved about their hosting ability. But there is no natatorium there – they use a temporary pool set up for the trials and the same could be done at the Olympic Games. FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur) will not like it, and they do not like the events being held outdoors, as at Los Angeles in 1984 and Barcelona in 1992, but both things would greatly decrease the cost of building more stadia.

Temporary facilities can be placed inside already existing structures, such as convention centres, or such centres can be built for the city to use later. Those will make money, and cities love convention centres because they bring business, people, tourists, and money to them for many years. The media centres – Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre (IBC) – should be built with future use as a convention centre in mind, or in the case of the IBC, future use as a broadcast centre for the city. As to Olympic Villages, virtually all major cities can use more low-cost housing and these villages, if they need to be built, should be designed with that future need in mind.

Another example of an IF that forces OCOGs hand is the ISU (International Skating Union) which mandates that speed skating must be held on an indoor oval at the Winter Olympics. I love speed skating, but those never (or rarely) get used after the Olympics. Strangely the ISU does not require its World Championships to be held on indoor oval. The IOC needs to tell the IFs that they run the show at the Olympics and we will do what is cost conscious for cities. Currently the IFs tell the cities and the IOC what they are entitled to, but paraphrasing Col. Nathan R. Jessup, “[We] don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

The cities must be allowed to use temporary facilities at every turn, if they do not have pre-existing stadia for each. Building a hockey (field) stadium is a nice idea perhaps in India or some cities in Europe, but at most cities it will become a white elephant. If the city does not have enough structures, either do not let that city in the rota, or allow them to use temporary structures, ideally structures that could even be rotated to the next city to host, similar to a traveling circus, that brings all its tents with it to each new city.

Further, OCOGs should do as Ueberroth did and get corporations to build facilities, if they need them, and here we look at Wimbledon. I think the IOC should loosen up their rules and allow more advertising at Olympic sites, which is now forbidden. Sorry, but Wimbledon is a very staid, proper event, which is what the IOC wants, yet I don’t think anyone is complaining about that Rolex clock that is seen every time the camera focuses for 34 seconds on Rafael Nadal hitting his first serve, and for which I assure you Rolex pays Wimbledon a significant sum each year. If you tell a corporation that they can have the Coca-Cola Olympic Natatorium or the Intel Olympic Velodrome, and that their name will show up on virtually every TV in every nation in the world for about 3 weeks, I think the money will appear very quickly to get that structure built.

Finally, on 1), if we have a rota of cities / nations, and the IOC assigns teams to each city / nation immediately after hosting, and the IOC runs the Games as a professional organization, and not allow an amateur OCOG to run them, this will certainly greatly decrease operational costs, because the IOC teams will know, and learn more during each Olympiad, where the money should be spent, and where it should not be. This facet of Olympic costs is relatively well-controlled and is not usually responsible for major cost overruns, but certainly a more experienced team in place from the beginning can limit these costs as well.

The Olympic naysayers will say that this all sounds too simplistic and that Olympic costs will always continue to spiral, as the Oxford study showed (noted above). They will also say that I am an Olympic apologist who is blind to the realties of modern Olympic economics.

Yes, I am a big believer in the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement. I think it serves a real need by bringing the nations of the world together peacefully for 2-3 weeks every few years, and making the people of the world realize and understand that we are far more alike than we are different (see North and South Korea in PyeongChang). But I am far from an Olympic apologist.

The NOlympics Movement people know only one thing about the Olympics – they have cost too much in recent years. Most have never been to an Olympic Games, compared to my 14. Most have never read a book on the Olympics Games, such as Preuß’s book on Olympic Economics. My Olympic library comprises over 1,000 books, most of which I’ve read, and my CV notes that I have written 27 books on the Olympic Games, so the NOlympics people cannot begin to tell me they know more about the Olympics, or Olympic finance, than I do.

I believe the Olympic Games can be brought to fiscal responsibility but it will take some effort, changing some rules, and doing some things the IOC and the IFs will not like. In the past 30 years there have been fiscally responsible Olympic Games, in addition to Los Angeles 1984 – Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake 2002, and Sydney 2000, and Vancouver 2010 all finished either with a small profit or neutral revenues. So it can be done. And here is my summary of what I believe are the steps that should be done to make this happen on a regular basis:

  1. Set up a rota of Olympic sites that have the necessary facilities so that building venues and stadia are not a huge part of Olympic budgets, and what this mandates is that if you do not already have the facilities you can’t be on the rota.
  2. After the Games are awarded to the host city, have the IOC run the Organizing Committee on-site with their own team, rather than trusting OCOGs, who have no experience, to do it.
  3. Insist on infrastructure costs, or local capital projects, be taken out of Olympic accounting. If the city wants to build it, they can, but it should never be an Olympic cost. If we follow 1., hopefully these projects will not be needed to host the Olympics. If the IOC team is on-site running the OCOG, they should be able to see that this does not get added to their budget.
  4. The IOC needs to be in charge of how the events are held, and not the IFs, who always want the newest and best facilities, and contribute to the Olympic host city arms race that greatly increases budgets.
  5. Loosen up the IOC advertising rules by allowing corporations to advertise on site, which will immediately increase the possibility that such corporations will pay for the building of any facilities that are needed.
  6. Always use temporary stadia and facilities, if needed, and if they cannot be built and paid for by corporations, and always consider rotating these around to future Olympic sites.

___________________

With thanx to David Fay, former executive director of the US Golf Association; Ben Fischer, writer at Sports Business Daily; Hilary Evans (@OlympicStatman); and Rich Perelman, former media director of the  Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) and current publisher of The Sports Examiner. All four read pre-prints of this and made suggestions, many of which were included. All mistakes are mine.

Original version had an error that has been corrected and was spotted by Alan Abrahamson. It was Gilbert Felli, not Christophe Dubi, who spent a year in Rio on the IOC’s behalf.

___________________

[1] All financial figures throughout will be in US dollars, not corrected for inflation. Similarly all financial figures for Olympic costs and profits/surpluses should be regarded as estimates. All such financial figures have been sourced from either Official Reports, Holger Preuß’s book on the economics of the Olympic Games (see later in article), or in the case of 1984 Los Angeles, direct information from Rich Perelman, who had a lead role in the LAOOC.

[2] Technically, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven were only sponsors, but all their sponsorships dollars were directed to the swim stadium and the velodrome, respectively, and they did receive naming rights (which could only be used after the Olympics). Information from Rich Perelman.

[3] Rich Perelman points out that even the TOP Program was strongly based on the LAOOC sponsorship program, designed by Ueberroth and Joel Rubinstein, who he notes does not get enough credit for his work on all this.

[4] Info kindly provided to me by Ben Fischer at Sports Business Daily – see https://www.google.com/search?q=Dan+Doctoroff+use+the+olympics&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS703US703&oq=Dan+Doctoroff+use+the+olympics+&aqs=chrome..69i57.4375j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[5] Can be found at this link – https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2804554.

The truth behind “Man Afraid of Soap”.

Lacrosse has been an infrequent guest at the Olympic Games. It was played at the 1904 and 1908 Olympics as a full medal sport then as a demonstration sport in 1928, 1932 and finally in 1948. Only three nations, Canada, the United States and Great Britain took part in the five editions of Olympic lacrosse.
With the possibility of the sport returning to the Olympic fold at Los Angeles 2028 it seems a good time to reflect upon the beginnings of the sport and its roots amongst the Native American communities of what is now the north east part of the United States and south east Canada.

The 1904 Olympic tournament was traditionally only competed between the Winnipeg Shamrocks and the hometown St. Louis Amateur Athletic Association but during my colleague Bill Mallon’s research into the St. Louis Games he discovered that a third team, from the Six Nations Reservation of Ontario, had competed and lost to the St. Louis team in what amounted to a semi-final.
The roster of the Six Nations team has been known for over 30 years but only in the form of the English translation of the tribal name of the players involved. Until today…

The traditional list of the team is as follows;
Almighty Voice, Black Eagle, Black Hawk, Flat Iron, Half Moon, Lightfoot, Man Afraid of the Soap, Night Hawk, Rain in Face, Red Jacket. Snake Eater, Spotted Tail.
Up until now it was impossible to link these names to those recorded in Canadian records but a finding by the Swedish athletics historian Tomas Magnusson has changed all that. We can now reveal that “Man Afraid of the Soap” was also known as Freeman Joseph Isaacs (1869-1937), the father of Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee Bill Isaacs.

Furthermore, we have solid evidence that the rest of Canada knew those squad players through their registered English names as opposed to their Native American names.
Those names being
Joe Crawford. Philip Jackson, Eli Warner, Amos Obediah, Thomas Will. Berman L. Snow, L. Bumbary,J. B. Eaver ,Eli Martin, Sandy Turkey, Austin Bill, W. E. Martin, Jacob Jamieson, Eli Henry, Joe Clark, Frank Seneca. Charlie Johnon, Robert Lottridge
Hopefully we may continue to gather more information until all the roster is revealed.

Freeman Joseph Isaacs
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/135901196/freeman-joseph-isaacs

The USA Performance at PyeongChang – An Analysis

Much ado has been made about the USA performance in PyeongChang, but is it much ado about nothing? Let’s look at the stats.

Here are the recent USA medal performances at the Winter Olympics.

Year G S B TM MedalOps %%%
1976 3 3 4 10 100 10.0%
1980 6 4 2 12 103 11.7%
1984 4 4 0 8 106 7.5%
1988 2 1 3 6 123 4.9%
1992 5 4 2 11 150 7.3%
1994 6 5 2 13 162 8.0%
1998 6 3 4 13 177 7.3%
2002 10 13 11 34 206 16.5%
2006 9 9 7 25 216 11.6%
2010 9 15 13 37 222 16.7%
2014 9 7 12 28 254 11.0%
2018 23 262 8.8%

The 23 # for 2018 is a guesstimate based on what they have won thru 19 February.

What is medal ops? Events do not uniformly allow a nation to win three medals. Most team events only allow a nation to enter 1 team (bobsled has 2). So medal ops is the total number of medals that a nation can win, and %%% is the percentage of the possible medals they could win. You can see the program inflation at the Winter Olympics, primarily due to the introduction of X-Games sports since 1988.

So what if we don’t count the X-Games events? How are we doing in the classic winter sports – those that were on the program prior to 1992, when the X-Games sports like freestyle skiing, snowboarding, skeleton, and short-track speed skating, came on the program.

Here are those #s.

Year G S B TM MedalOps %%%
1976 3 3 4 10 100 10.0%
1980 6 4 2 12 103 11.7%
1984 4 4 0 8 106 7.5%
1988 2 1 3 6 123 4.9%
1992 3 3 1 7 136 5.1%
1994 5 3 0 8 136 5.9%
1998 3 3 2 8 137 5.8%
2002 5 7 8 20 154 13.0%
2006 5 6 2 13 158 8.2%
2010 6 11 5 22 158 13.9%
2014 3 3 7 13 166 7.8%
2018 10 173 5.8%

Again, the 10 # for 2018 is a guesstimate.

Let’s look more closely. In 2002 and 2010 we won about 1/6th of the available medals. What do those two Olympics have in common? They were home fields for the USA. I know, you will demur and say, “Wait a minute, 2010 was in Canada,” but Vancouver sits on the US border and is probably easier to get to for US fans than Salt Lake, and travel for US athletes was no problem. It was a home field for us, for certain. It is well known that home nations always improve their performance in the medal table.

Further, after competing in a home nation Olympics, those nations typically do less well at the next few Olympics after that – see http://olympstats.com/2014/03/06/host-nation-bounce-effect/ in which I showed pretty effectively that after a nation hosts an Olympics, it tends to win about 75% as many medals at the next Olympics, then 60% at the Olympics after that, and 50% at the Olympics 12-years down the road.

So after the two “home” Olympics of 2002 and 2010, we could definitely expect to see a diminution of American medal expectations. But it was never presented as such.

Further, not only does the USA do better in home Olympics, the further we travel the less well we do, although the numbers there are not as strong. The last Asian Winter Olympics was in 1998 at Nagano. There we won 7.3% of available medals vs. a projected 8.8% in 2018. In the classic sports we won 5.8% of available medals in Nagano, and are projected to win … 5.8% of those medals in PyeongChang.

Another problem has been our performance in those X-Games sports – we’re not doing as well as once we did. Even that is not unusual. Think about other “modern” sports which had an American origin, or one in which Americans pioneered them. Triathlon – we were once dominant – think of the Scotts (Dave, Molina, Tinley) at the Ironman, winning every year. Now we rarely get on the podium. Mountain biking was once an American stronghold (remember Ned Overend), but by the time it got to Olympics in 1996, we were an afterthought.

The same is happening in the X-Games winter sports. In short-track speed skating (I know, its technically not in the X-Games, but same difference), once we had Cathy Turner winning golds, and Apolo Anton Ohno winning multiple medals, but now the Koreans are so dominant. We usually are happy with an occasional bronze.

In freestyle skiing and snowboarding, we’re still very good, but the Europeans have started to focus on these sports, and our dominance has been waning. With nationally subsidized sports programs, which is common in Europe, once sports get on the Olympic program those nations start focusing on them, and usually improve quickly.

What of the classic sports and our medal chances in 2018, look at them with a retrospectoscope, realistically.

  • Alpine Skiing – we had no male medal hopes. Bode is retired and Ted Ligety is returning from back surgery. On the women’s side, we have Lindsay and Mikaela but that’s it. Julia Mancuso just retired after many hip injuries, and there is nobody in the pipeline at the moment. Even with Lindsay Vonn, that is not the same body as in 2006-10, after 2 ACL recons and a humeral shaft fracture, with an ORIF and a radial nerve palsy.
  • Biathlon – we’ve never won a medal. Lowell Bailey did win a World Championship in 2017, but has struggled this year and I think medal expectations were unrealistic.
  • Bobsled – since 2002 we have started winning medals again, but the USA Team was devastated by the tragic early death of Steve Holcomb, our best driver. Without him, our medal chances greatly diminished.
  • Cross-Country Skiing – Bill Koch won a medal in 1976 in the 30 km. Boxing had the great white hopes of Jerry Quarry in 1970s and Gerry Cooney in the 1980s, and every Winter Olympics we hear of another great American white-snow hope, but like Quarry and Cooney, they never seem to materialize.
  • Figure Skating – our singles skaters have not been very good for almost a decade now. Our pairs skaters have never been at the top internationally. Ice dance has now become our best event. Adding the team event has helped us win a medal because of our depth, but we are not the world leaders in this sport.
  • Ice Hockey – the women are excellent, with only the Canadians to rival them. On the men’s side, without the NHL did anyone seriously think we could beat European teams that are playing skaters from the KHL, the world’s second best league? There is still a chance – maybe they can pull off an upset.
  • Luge – we’ve never won much and cannot touch the Germans. Chris Mazdzer won a medal, which is a reasonably good performance for the US in this sport.
  • Nordic Combined – we won 4 medals in the sport at Vancouver, but those are the only medals we have ever won. We were not expecting any in PyeongChang.
  • Ski Jumping – we have won 1 medal, a bronze in 1924 by Anders Haugen, a Norwegian émigré, who only received it in 1974 after a scoring error was revealed. A top 10 finish in this sport is rare for the US.
  • Speed Skating – paraphrasing Rick Pitino, “Eric Heiden (or Bonnie Blair or Dan Jansen) is not walking thru that door.” On the men’s side our only medal hope was Joey Mantia, and he still has his best event, the mass start. For the women, Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma were the best skaters in the world – in 2016. Bowe then had a concussion and recovered slowly and Bergsma has not been as good in the last 2 seasons. Media attention on our speed skating hopes may be overblown because our skaters often post world leading times, but that is usually at Salt Lake City, or Calgary, which are known as the 2 fastest ovals in the world.

Winter Olympic sports must be those held on snow or ice, per the Olympic Charter. There are 3 basic sports – skiing, skating, and sliding. In those the USA has been the dominant nation only rarely – figure skating from 1952-60, and Eric Heiden in speed skating in 1977-80. In Alpine skiing, the Austrians and Swiss dominate. In Nordic skiing, it’s the Norwegians. Speed skating belongs to the Dutch skaters, or the Koreans in short-track. And in the sliding sports (bobsled, luge, skeleton), the Germans are nonpareil.

So, we have had almost a perfect storm set up against the USA Winter Olympians at PyeongChang: 1) they were being compared to performances in 2002 and 2010 at home Olympics; 2) with the host nation bounce effect, fewer medals should have been expected; 3) with an Asian games, so far away from home, we do not always perform as well, and we have been similar to the last one at Nagano, Japan; 4) with Europeans focusing more on X-Games sports, our dominance there is waning; and 5) in the classic winter sports, we’ve had many injuries, a death, and retirements of our top athletes, and we have almost never been a dominant nation.

The @TeamUSA performance at PyeongChang has not been bad, despite reports to the contrary. We’ve had many, many 4th, 5th, and 6th place finishes, as pointed out by Rich Perelman in The Sports Examiner, and echoed by USA team spokesman Mark Jones. But the expectations of 30-35 medals should never have been made – they were unrealistic.

1000th Gold Medal

1000th Winter Olympic gold medal tonite per IOC spokesman Mark Adams. He said he wasn’t sure which event it would come in. Neither am I. Seems like a simple thing, doesn’t it? Just count the # of Winter Olympic events.

Let’s see what the counts are. Through 2014 there were 960 events in Winter Olympic sports. Notice I said Winter Olympic sports. In 1908, figure skating was held at the Summer Olympics (4 events) and in 1920 figure skating (3 events) and ice hockey (1 event) were contested. So if you could count those as non-Winter Olympic events, that gives 952 Olympic Winter Games (OWG) events.

But there have been various ties over the years, so of the 952 events, there have been 955 gold medals. But wait, prior to the investigation of Russian doping, there were actually 959 gold medals at the OWG, as 4 were removed, giving 955 – they had not yet been re-assigned. But wait, in January several of the Russian medals were restored, giving 957, or 965, if you count 1908 and 1920.

And if you really get funky with it, including 1908 and 1920, there have been 5,711 gold medals awarded.

So there you have it. The number of Winter gold medals before PyeongChang started was 952, or 955, or 957, or 959, or 960, or 961, or 963, or 965, … or 5,711. Makes you understand why Mark Adams said he didn’t know when the 1,000th gold medal would occur. Neither do I. Depends exactly on how you define your terms.

(With thanx to David Clark, who suggested we look at this landmark)

Shaun White – For the Record Book

By winning the snowboarding halfpipe tonite, Shaun White has  achieved the following:

  • 100th gold medal for @TeamUSA – his other two gold medals were #71 (2006) and #83 (2010)
  • 3rd oldest (31-164) SNB gold medalist (men and overall) – after Jasey-Jay Anderson (CAN) (34-321; 2010 / PGS) and Seth Wescott (33-232; 2010 / Boardercross)
  • 3rd oldest @TeamUSA Winter Olympic individual gold medalist (men and overall) – after Jim Shea (33-255; 2002 / Skeleton) and Wescott
  • First snowboarder (men and overall) to win 3 gold medals
  • =1st snowboarder to win 3 medals – with Kelly Clark (USA)
  • 2nd all-time USA men for most Winter Olympic gold medals (after Eric Heiden)
  • 3rd all-time @TeamUSA for most Winter Olympic gold medals (after Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair)
  • =6th all-time USA men for most Winter Olympic medals
  • =12th all-time men for most Winter Olympic individual gold medals
  • 1st USA male to win gold medals at 3 Winter Olympics (tied with Bonnie Blair overall)
  • =1st USA male to win medals at 3 Winter Olympics (with Apolo Anton Ohno)
  • USA record for most years between gold medals (12) – now Ted Ligety with 8 (men and overall)
  • =4th all-time for most years between gold medals (men) (12)
  • 1st USA male to medal three times in same event at the Winter Olympics (tied with Bonnie Blair overall)
  • =1st (with 5 other men) among male Winter Olympians for gold medals in same individual event (3)

All the Olympic Stats You'll Ever Need