Bidding for Summer and Winter Olympic Games

And so it has come to this – Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China are the two remaining candidate cities to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Almaty was formerly known as Alma-Ata when Kazakhstan was a Soviet Republic, and was known as Verniy in the years before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Beijing is an interesting choice for a number of reasons. First of all, Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. No city has ever hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics and many people think it would not be feasible to do so. However, if you have been to Beijing, and traveled to the Great Wall, you know that high mountains and very cold weather are only 50-70 km outside of the city. If you want to see steep mountains, try hiking up some sections of the Great Wall sometime.

Since it seems so unusual, has any city ever bid to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics prior to Beijing? In fact, it has happened and far more frequently than you would imagine.

We must discuss one aberration which are the 1956 Equestrian Games. The 1956 Olympics were held in Melbourne, Australia, which had strict animal quarantine laws and required the 1956 equestrian events to be moved to another country and city, which turned out to be Stockholm, Sweden. But there was a bid for that hosting responsibility, and Berlin, Los Angeles, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro also bid for the 1956 equestrian games.

So now we have three different types of possible Games bids – Summer, Winter, and Equestrian. One city, Stockholm, has sorta bid for all versions of the Olympics. It hosted the Summer Olympics in 1912, the Equestrian Olympics in 1956, bid for the Summer Games in 1952 and 2004, and put in a preliminary bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but withdrew that in January 2014 because of lack of governmental support.

Four cities also bid for the Summer and Equestrian Olympics – Berlin, Los Angeles, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro – all the losing bid cities for the 1956 Equestrian Games.

However, most importantly, 6 cities have bid for both the Summer and Winter Olympics, of which Beijing is only the most recent. Here is the full list of cities that have bid for both versions of the Olympics:

City NOC Ssn Yr1 Yr2 Yr3 Yr4 Yr5
Beijing CHN S 2000 2008
W 2022
Helsinki FIN S 1936 1940 1944 1952
W 2006
Minneapolis USA S 1948 1952 1956
W 1932
Montréal CAN S 1940 1944 1956 1972 1976
W 1932 1936 1944 1956
München FRG S 1972
W 2018
Torino ITA S 1908
W 2006

No city has ever won the bid to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, but all but one of the above cities have hosted one Olympics – Summer by Beijing in 2008, Helsinki in 1952, Montréal in 1976, München in 1972; and Winter by Torino in 2006. The lone exception is Minneapolis, Minnesota, which bid for three Summer Olympics and one Winter Olympics, but has yet to see Olympic Rings in their city.

Can Beijing do it? With only two cities, they should have at least a 50% chance, and their ratings by the IOC Evaluation Commission were far higher than those for Almaty. (Oslo, Norway, which recently turned the chance to bid, had the highest ratings of all.) The bid will be announced on 31 July 2015 at the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Stay tuned.

US Cities Bidding for the Olympics

Tomorrow, 16 December, four US cities will make presentations to the US Olympic Committee, who will then select one city as the US choice to be candidate city to host the 2024 Olympic Games. The four US cities bidding are Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

Los Angeles is well known in the Olympic world. If selected, this would be Los Angeles’s 10th bid to host the Olympic Games – after 1924, 1928, 1932, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1976, 1980, and 1984. Los Angeles won the bid in 1932 and 1984, acting as the host city. In addition, Los Angeles also bid one other time – in 1956 for the Equestrian Games. The 1956 Olympics were in Melbourne, Australia and restrictive animal quarantine laws forced the equestrian events to be moved to another city and nation, which turned out to be Stockholm, Sweden.

Los Angeles has thus bid 9 times previously for the Summer Olympics, which is an all-time record. Rome, Italy has bid 8 times, winning in 1908 (when it turned down the Games eventually) and 1960. Rome recently announced plans to bid for 2024. Tied for third for most Summer Olympic bids is Athens, which bid 7 times, and has hosted the 1896 and 2004 Olympics, and the 1906 Intercalated Games.

The city tied with Athens is a US one, and nobody would ever guess that Detroit, Michigan has bid for 7 Summer Olympics. Detroit holds the sad distinction (and an expensive one) of making the most Olympic bids without ever winning one.

San Francisco has bid for the Olympics before, back in 1956. There were 10 candidate cities that year, including 6 American ones, and San Francisco was eliminated after the first round vote, having received 0 votes.

Boston and Washington, DC have never bid before for the Olympics, so this will be a first for them.

Why is it necessary for the USOC to pick only one city – couldn’t all four US cities submit bids to the International Olympic Committee? That used to be the case, but since the 1970s the USOC and the IOC have only allowed one city from any nation to bid. The saves the nation money, and also gives the cities more chance to win, as multiple US cities would only split the votes.

But back when it was allowed, US cities liked to bid for the Olympics, led by the aforementioned 1956 bid with 6 US cities involved – Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. In 1948 and 1952 there were also multiple US cities bidding, with 4 in 1948 (Baltimore, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia) and 5 in 1952 (Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia).

At the Winter Olympics, there have also been several times when multiple US cities have bid, most notably in 1932 when 6 US cities bid – Lake Placid, Bear Mountain, New York; Duluth, Minnesota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Denver, and Yosemite Valley, California. In 1956 Colorado Springs and Lake Placid also made bids.

Here are all the American cities that have bid for the Summer Olympics and the years they bid, also listing the number of times they have won:

City Wins Yr1 Yr2 Yr3 Yr4 Yr5 Yr6 Yr7 Yr8 Yr9
Atlanta 1 1920 1996
Baltimore 0 1948
Chicago 0 1904 1952 1956 2016
Cleveland 0 1916 1920
Detroit 0 1944 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972
Los Angeles 2 1924 1928 1932 1948 1952 1956 1976 1980 1984
Minneapolis 0 1948 1952 1956
New York 0 2012
Philadelphia 0 1920 1948 1952 1956
San Francisco 0 1956
St.Louis 1 1904

So here we go. One US city will be chosen tomorrow. Many people feel that Los Angeles would have the best chance to win the bid. But if the writer of this blog is allowed to pick favorites … Go Boston!

Olympics Held in More Than One Nation

The IOC, meeting the last few days in Monte Carlo, is discussing whether or not the 2018 Winter Olympic host city Pyeongchang, should move the sliding events (bobsled, luge, skeleton) to another city, with Nagano in Japan, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, being mentioned as a possibility, although the IOC noted it could be held at as many as 12 sliding centers worldwide.

Has this ever happened before at the Winter Olympics? Well, no Winter Olympic event has ever been held in a nation other than the nation of the host city, but a similar problem arose in 1960 with the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. The Squaw Valley organizers refused to build a bob run that year, citing the costs and the fact that only nine European countries were pledging to compete in the sport that year. Remember that in 1960, getting from Europe to Squaw Valley, near Reno, Nevada, was not easy, especially while transporting bobsleds.

The FIBT (Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing) countered by holding World Championships in 1960 bobsledding in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The FIBT had never before held World Championships in a Winter Olympic year, and would not start doing it again until 1992.

But there have been other times that Olympic events have been held in different nations. The best known example is 1956 when the equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden, instead of Melbourne, Australia. In that era, Australia had strict quarantine laws for animal entering the country, and the horses would have had to arrive in Australia and be quarantined for six months before being allowed to train and compete, obviously an untenable situation.

In 1920, when the Olympics were in Antwerp, Belgium, the 12-foot dinghy yachting event (now sailing) was held in Oostende, Belgium on 7-8 July. On the second day there was a problem with the course related to one of the buoys, when it shifted position, so the race was declared void. Both of the entered yachts were from the Netherlands, so it was elected to finish the final two races in the Netherlands, on the Buiten-IJ, a water near Amsterdam, on 3 September.

In 1908 yachting, one could also argue that the events were held in different countries, although not different NOCs. The 1908 Olympics were in London, England, and most of the yachting events were held off the coast of the Isle of Wight, an island off the south of England, in the English Channel. However, the 12-metre class was sailed in Glasgow, Scotland, technically a different country to some International Federations, but not to the IOC.

Sailing, or the earlier term yachting, has often been held far from the host city. In 2008, the sailing events were held at Qingdao, on the coast of China, and 718 km (446 miles) from Beijing. In 1996, the sailing competition was held at Wassaw Bay in Savannah, 248 miles (400 km) from Atlanta. In 1972, the yachting events were held in Kiel, in the very northern part of Germany, very near to Denmark, which was 871 km (541 miles) from München.

Football also spreads its games around quite a bit now, although they have always been held in the same nation as the host city, with one possible exception. In 1984, when the Games were in Los Angeles, some preliminary football matches were contested at Harvard Stadium, in Allston, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, which is 2,611 miles (4,205 km) from Los Angeles. In 1996, with the Games in Atlanta, some preliminary football matches took place in Washington, DC.

In 2012, one could again argue that some football matches took place in different countries, as some preliminaries took place in Glasgow, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales. Per FIFA, England, Scotland, and Wales are considered separate nations, or perhaps better termed geo-political entities (GPE), but the IOC only recognizes Great Britain.

In 2008, in addition to sailing at Qingdao, equestrian events were held at Hong Kong, China, which is fully 1,977 km (1,228 miles) from Beijing. Although Hong Kong was part of China in 2008, they were separate NOCs.

And there have been attempts to host the Winter Olympics in contiguous nations, with Östersund, Sweden having considered hosting the Alpine skiing events in Norway. For the 2006 Winter Olympics, Klagenfurt, Austria made a co-bid with Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and Jesnice, Slovenia, but the bid was not advanced to the final stage of voting. In early bidding for 2006, Helsinki, Finland was going to hold the Alpine skiing events in Lillehammer, Norway; and for the 2022 Olympics, an early candidate was a combined bid from Krakow, Poland and Jasna, Slovakia. And going way back, Lahti, Finland, bidding for the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Winter Olympics, and Tampere, Finland, bidding for the 1976 Winter Olympics, both planned to hold the Alpine skiing events in Åre, Sweden.

So if the 2018 bobsledding events are moved from Pyeongchang, it will not be without precedent at the Olympics.

Longest Lived Swimming Olympic Records

A few months ago we looked at what are the longest lived Olympic records in track & field athletics. As we noted at the time, Olympic records can only be set in certain sports. At the Summer Games, this includes athletics (track & field), swimming, shooting, weightlifting, archery, and Olympic bests are usually considered now in rowing and canoeing. At the Winter Games, the measured sports are speed skating and short-track speed skating, with the best jumps measured in ski jumping.

Let’s look at swimming today and see what the longest-lived Olympic records are in this sport. And we have to make some assumptions, as we commonly do. We’re going to consider marks that have lasted the most Olympics, because the gap from 1936-48 and 1912-20 artificially made records last longer that were set in 1912 or 1932-36. So we’ll consider Olympics Between (OlyBT below) and Years Between (YrsGap below). Also, some marks were set a number of Olympics ago but are still the best on record. We’ll consider all of those to last until 2016 (at a minimum, that is true).

Given that, here are all the swimming Olympic records that have lasted 12+ years or 3 or more Olympics. Note that swim records turn over relatively quickly, and do not last as long as the track & field records, in general. The men’s list is first.

Event Mark Athlete/Team NOC Year OlyBT YrGap
50 m free 21.91 Aleksandr Popov EUN 1992 4 16
1500 m free 19:12.4 Kuzuo Kitamura JPN 1932 3 20
100 m free 48.63 Matt Biondi USA 1988 3 12
400 m free 3:40.59 Ian Thorpe AUS 2000 3 12
1500 m free 14:58.27 Vladimir Salnikov URS 1980 3 12
1500 m free 14:43.48 Kieren Perkins AUS 1992 3 12
200 m breast 2:10.16 Mike Barrowman USA 1992 3 12
100 m fly 54.27 Mark Spitz USA 1972 3 12
200 m IM 2:07.17 Gunnar Larsson SWE 1972 3 12
4×100 m free relay 3:26.42 United States USA 1972 3 12
100 m back 1:05.9 Adolph Kiefer USA 1936 2 16

Now for the women’s list, again for all records lasting 12+ years or 3 or more Olympics.

Event Mark Athlete/Team NOC Year OlyBT YrGap
200 m free 1:57.65 Heike Friedrich GDR 1988 5 20
400 m free 4:03.85 Janet Evans USA 1988 5 20
400 m IM 4:36.29 Petra Schneider GDR 1980 5 20
200 m back 2:07.06 Krisztina Egerszegi HUN 1992 4 16
200 m fly 2:06.90 Mary T. Meagher USA 1984 4 16
100 m free 54.79 Barbara Krause GDR 1980 3 12
800 m free 8:20.20 Janet Evans USA 1988 3 12
100 m back 1:00.86 Rica Reinisch GDR 1980 3 12
100 m fly 56.61 Inge de Bruijn NED 2000 3 12
200 m IM 2:23.07 Shane Gould AUS 1972 3 12
100 m free 1:05.9 Rie Mastenbroek NED 1936 1 12
400 m free 5:26.4 Rie Mastenbroek NED 1936 1 12
100 m back 1:16.6 Nida Senff NED 1936 1 12
200 m breast 3:01.9 Hideko Maehata JPN 1936 1 12
4×100 m free relay 4:36.0 The Netherlands NED 1936 1 12

And now we’ll go event-by-event, looking at the longest-lived Olympic swimming records in each event – men followed by the women.

Event Mark Athlete/Team NOC Year OlyBT YrsBT
50 m free 21.91 Aleksandr Popov EUN 1992 4 16
100 m free 48.63 Matt Biondi USA 1988 3 12
100 m free 57.5 Masanori Yusa JPN 1936 1 12
200 m free 1:46.70 Yevgeny Sadovy EUN 1992 2 8
200 m free 1:42.96 Michael Phelps USA 2008 2 8
400 m free 3:40.59 Ian Thorpe AUS 2000 3 12
400 m free 5:24.4 George Hodgson CAN 1912 2 12
400 m free 4:44.5 Jack Medica USA 1936 1 12
1500 m free 19:12.4 Kuzuo Kitamura JPN 1932 3 20
1500 m free 14:58.27 Vladimir Salnikov URS 1980 3 12
1500 m free 14:43.48 Kieren Perkins AUS 1992 3 12
1500 m free 22:00.0 George Hodgson CAN 1912 2 12
100 m back 1:05.9 Adolph Kiefer USA 1936 2 16
100 m back 1:08.2 George Kojac USA 1928 2 8
100 m back 55.49 John Naber USA 1976 2 8
100 m back 53.86 Jeff Rouse USA 1992 2 8
200 m back 1:59.19 John Naber USA 1976 2 8
200 m back 1:58.99 Rick Carey USA 1984 2 8
200 m back 1:58.47 Martín López-Zubero ESP 1992 2 8
100 m breast 1:03.11 John Hencken USA 1976 2 8
100 m breast 1:01.65 Steve Lundquist USA 1984 2 8
200 m breast 2:10.16 Mike Barrowman USA 1992 3 12
200 m breast 3:01.8 Walter Bathe GER 1912 2 12
200 m breast 2:41.5 Tetsuo Hamuro JPN 1936 1 12
100 m fly 54.27 Mark Spitz USA 1972 3 12
200 m fly 2:06.6 Kevin Berry AUS 1964 2 8
200 m fly 1:59.23 Mike Bruner USA 1976 2 8
200 m fly 1:56.26 Melvin Stewart USA 1992 2 8
200 m fly 1:52.03 Michael Phelps USA 2008 2 8
200 m IM 2:07.17 Gunnar Larsson SWE 1972 3 12
400 m IM 4:45.4 Dick Roth USA 1964 2 8
400 m IM 4:14.23 Tamás Darnyi HUN 1992 2 8
400 m IM 4:03.84 Michael Phelps USA 2008 2 8
4×100 m free relay 3:26.42 United States USA 1972 3 12
4×200 m free relay 7:52.1 United States USA 1964 2 8
4×200 m free relay 7:23.22 United States USA 1976 2 8
4×200 m free relay 7:11.95 Unified Team EUN 1992 2 8
4×200 m free relay 7:07.05 Australia AUS 2000 2 8
4×200 m free relay 6:58.56 United States USA 2008 2 8
4×200 m free relay 8:51.5 Japan JPN 1936 1 12
4×100 m medley relay 3:42.22 United States USA 1976 2 8
4×100 m medley relay 3:29.34 United States USA 2008 2 8
Event Mark Athlete/Team NOC Year OlyBT YrGap
50 m free 24.79 Yang Wenyi CHN 1992 2 8
50 m free 24.13 Inge de Bruijn NED 2000 2 8
100 m free 54.79 Barbara Krause GDR 1980 3 12
100 m free 1:05.9 Rie Mastenbroek NED 1936 1 12
200 m free 1:57.65 Heike Friedrich GDR 1988 5 20
400 m free 4:03.85 Janet Evans USA 1988 5 20
400 m free 5:26.4 Rie Mastenbroek NED 1936 1 12
800 m free 8:20.20 Janet Evans USA 1988 3 12
100 m back 1:00.86 Rica Reinisch GDR 1980 3 12
100 m back 1:16.6 Nida Senff NED 1936 1 12
200 m back 2:07.06 Krisztina Egerszegi HUN 1992 4 16
100 m breast 1:07.95 Tanya Bogomilova-Dangalakova BUL 1988 2 8
100 m breast 1:07.02 Penny Heyns RSA 1996 2 8
100 m breast 1:05.17 Leisel Jones AUS 2008 2 8
200 m breast 2:29.54 Lina Kačiušytė URS 1980 2 8
200 m breast 3:01.9 Hideko Maehata JPN 1936 1 12
100 m fly 56.61 Inge de Bruijn NED 2000 3 12
200 m fly 2:06.90 Mary T. Meagher USA 1984 4 16
200 m IM 2:23.07 Shane Gould AUS 1972 3 12
400 m IM 4:36.29 Petra Schneider GDR 1980 5 20
4×100 m free relay 3:42.71 German Democratic Republic GDR 1980 2 8
4×100 m free relay 4:36.0 The Netherlands NED 1936 1 12
4×200 m free relay 7:59.87 United States USA 1996 1 4
4×200 m free relay 7:57.80 United States USA 2000 1 4
4×200 m free relay 7:53.42 United States USA 2004 1 4
4×200 m free relay 7:44.31 Australia AUS 2008 1 4
4×200 m free relay 7:42.92 United States USA 2012 1 4
4×100 m medley relay 4:06.67 German Democratic Republic GDR 1980 2 8
4×100 m medley relay 4:02.54 United States USA 1992 2 8

Viktor Chukarin

WW2 Prisoner-of-War,1st Soviet Gymnastic Hero, 11-time Olympic medalist

Category Data
Full Name Viktor Ivanovych Chukarin
Used Name Viktor Chukarin
Original Name Віктор Іванович Чукарін
Other Names Viktor Ivanovich Chukarin; Виктор Иванович Чукарин
Born 9 November 1921; Krasnoarmeyskoye-Krym (UKR)
Died 25 August 1984; Lviv-Lviv (UKR)
Affiliations Iskra Lvov / Burevestnik Lvov
Ethnic Nation UKR
Year-Games Sport Event Place Medals
1952 Summer Gymnastics Individual All-Around 1 Gold
Team All-Around 1 Gold
Floor Exercise =29
Horse Vault 1 Gold
Parallel Bars 2 Silver
Horizontal Bar 5
Rings 2 Silver
Pommelled Horse 1 Gold
1956 Summer Gymnastics Individual All-Around 1 Gold
Team All-Around 1 Gold
Floor Exercise =2 Silver
Horse Vault =7
Parallel Bars 1 Gold
Horizontal Bar =4
Rings =7
Pommelled Horse 3 Bronze
Medals Number
Gold 7
Silver 3
Bronze 1
Total 11

Viktor Chukarin was a former World War II prisoner-of-war, who was 30-years-old when the USSR first competed at the Olympic Games in 1952. Despite these handicaps, he dominated the gymnastics competition in Helsinki, winning the all-around title in addition to taking gold in the team event and four medals in the individual apparatus events – gold on the pommelled horse and horse vault, and silver on the parallel bars and rings. In 1956, he successfully defended his all-around title and added two more gold, one as a member of the winning team, a silver and a bronze medal to bring his tally of Olympic medals to a then record total of 11. His 1956 individual medals were as follows: gold – all-around, parallel bars, team; silver – floor exercises; and bronze – pommelled horse. He was also World Champion in 1954 in the all-around and parallel bars and, after retiring, became head of gymnastics at the L’viv Institute of Physical Culture in his native Ukraine.

The best and worst of Olympic mascots

Yesterday, the still unnamed mascot of the Rio 2016 Olympics was presented to the world. As always, the responses are mixed, some calling it “a yellow cat-like thing“, others declaring it “cute, cuddly and capable of brining in hundreds of millions in revenue“, while it reminds some of us here of Top Cat.

The new Olympic (left) and Paralympic mascots – still to be named.

A mascot is originally a good luck charm, which was also its original role at the Olympics. For the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, a skier named Schuss made its appearance. The stylized man was created unofficially for the Games. The first official mascot followed four years later, in Munich: a colored dachshund named Waldi. The marathon course that year was modelled to look like the profile of the dog. From Innsbruck 1976, where Schneemann was used to ensure a snow-filled Games, all Olympics have had mascots. Besides a good luck charm, they’ve figured in opening ceremonies, are used for distraction during breaks and – of course – to boost the sales of Olympic memorabilia.

In true OlympStats style, we could present you a list of all Olympic mascots here, but there’s several places on the web that already do a comendable job. In particular, the IOC has two reference documents (Summer, Winter) that extensively describe and depict all mascots.

So, instead I’ve listed my personal top three of best and worst Olympic mascots.

Top 3 best Olympic mascots

My favorite Olympic mascot: Hodori from Seoul 1988.

  1. Hodori 1988 – a tiger with a Korean hat, is simple, not too cliché, and funny.
  2. Quatchi 2010 – based on the legendary sasquatch from native mythology, this furry little(?) fellow apparently still need to wear earmuffs.
  3. Misha 1980 – the first mascot to be widely used, Misha is simple but very recognizable.

Top 3 worst Olympic mascots

Worst Olympic mascot by a clear margin: Atlanta 1996′s Izzy

  1. Izzy 1996 – probably the most ridiculed Olympic mascot of all time, its original name was tellingly “Whatizit”. Still, nobody knows what it is.
  2. Wenlock 2012 – a droplet of steel with one eye, he loses out to Izzy due to fact his name is taken from the Much Wenlock Games, one of the source of inspiration for Pierre de Coubertin
  3. Magique 1992 – unlike the top entries, Magique is actually vagualy recognizble, described by the IOC as an “imp”. But despite its name, it fails to inspire me to view magical things.

Did I miss a horrible one? Gloss over the best mascot of all time? Feel free to let us know in the comments.

The IOC still consists mostly of grey-haired men, but is changing slowly

Yesterday, the IOC announced a set of recommendations for the future of the Olympic movement. Recommendation 37 calls for the possibility for IOC members to be granted exception to the maximum age rule, while Recommendation 11 calls to foster gender equality. So how is the IOC doing regarding age and gender equality?

When the IOC was founded in 1894, Pierre de Coubertin was 31 years old. This fit in well with the other 14 IOC members, of which the average age was just under 40, and the mean age 34.5 years.

Average age

The average age of IOC members since 1894.

Since then, the average age of IOC members has steadily grown (as has the number of members). In 1913, the average age was 50, and in 1942 it hit 60 for the first time. Save for a few dips, it has since remained steady between 60 and 65 years old. The number of IOC members under forty, which started at 9 out of 15 in 1894, remained low. In 1998, there were only 3.

Then, the bribery scandal surrounding the election of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics became public. In the aftermath of the scandal, the IOC decided to ban several members, establish an age limit of 70 for new members (and 80 for existing ones as of 1999) and add a group of athletes members. These measures increased the number of young members to 13, and lowered the average age noticeably. Currently, the average age is set to drop below 60 for the first time since 1958. A further drop is to be expected, as still 29 members over 70 are in the IOC, but that number is decreasing. By adopting recommendation 37, it is possible that the average age goes back up again, which hopefully is not a goal of the IOC 2020 plans.

João Havelange was one of the all-time oldest IOC members when he resigned in 2011 at age 95.

Looking at gender equality, which the IOC hopes to achieve in female participation and through mixed events, the IOC still has some way to go to achieve gender equality among its members. It wasn’t until 1981 that the first women joined the IOC. Since then, the number of women has risen slowly, and currently they make up less than a quarter of its members. Of these, a significant percentage are athlete members, which are typically only a member for one or two Olympiads.

Women in IOC

The percentage of female IOC members since 1981.

So, besides stimulating female athletes, the IOC would do well to also stimulate women taking up administrative positions in sports. Or will that have to wait for Agenda 2030?

IOC vice-president Nawal El-Moutawakel (a former hurdles champion) is the highest ranked women in the IOC at the moment.

Lights, Camera, Olympic Games

This week the film “Foxcatcher” will be released in the United States and already the word is that it may figure prominently in the nominations for the 2015 Academy Awards. The story surrounding the death of US Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz at the hands of paranoid-schizophrenic millionaire coach John du Pont has already gained critical plaudits especially for the performance of Steve Carrell as Du Pont.

There is a long history based on films based on the Olympic Games, or featuring Olympians, that goes way back into the mists of time. A few are regarded as classics of the silver screen; others are barely remembered at all. Let’s take a look at a selection of some of the more memorable movies based around the Olympic Games. These don’t include appearances by Olympians in acting roles in films without the Games as a central subject or documentaries. Those will be subjects of further posts in the near future.

The Ancient Olympics
Asterix at the Olympics (2008)
Live action version of the famous French cartoon book starring Gérard Depardieu which was released to coincide with the Beijing Olympics. Partly a sly parody of real life, much of the plot revolves around the use of a magic potion that is banned for the Olympic competitions.
It was badly received by critics and public alike.

1896 Athens
It Happened in Athens (1962)
Based extremely loosely around the events of the inaugural Olympic marathon, Jayne Mansfield plays an actress who announces that she will marry the winner of the race whilst safe in the knowledge that her lover, an army officer, is the clear favourite. The natural running talent of a young shepherd called Spyridon Louis complicates the matter. The film was a flop when it came out and did irreparable damage to the careers of the lead actors. It featured a cameo from two time decathlon champion Bob Mathias.

1912 Stockholm
Jim Thorpe All-American (1951)
Burt Lancaster stars in the title role as the Native American who, apart from being the greatest all-round athlete on the planet, played professional American football and baseball. Thorpe himself appears in a cameo role as a coach. The film covers his exploits in Stockholm but also the triumphs and tragedies in his life and sporting career from high school to the year of the movie’s release.
It was a box office success at the time of its release.

1924 Paris
Chariots of Fire (1981)

Probably the benchmark in Olympic movies, the movie tells the tale of British sprinters Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. Liddell was the 400 metre champion in Paris before becoming a Christian missionary in China whilst the story of Abrahams, the 100 metre champion at the same Games, is set across a background of anti-Semitism and the British class system. A winner of 3 Oscars including best picture, it is also memorable for the score by Greek composer Vangelis.

1936 Berlin
Race (2016)
This is the one film in this list that has yet to be released. Filming began on this telling of the Jesse Owens story earlier this year. Starring Canadian actor Stephan James as Owens with Jeremy Irons as future IOC President Avery Brundage, the film is due for release in April 2016.

Berlin 1936 (2009)
“Berlin 1936” takes the story of Gretel Bergman and Dora Ratjen at the Berlin Olympics as a starting point even if most of the story bares little relation to the true events of 1936. In the film Marie Ketteler, a fictionalized version of Ratjen, is a man used by the Nazis to challenge Bergman, the Jewish athlete, for a place on the German team in the high jump. In real life, whether the authorities knew that Ratjen had an intersex condition is still a matter for conjecture.
The film was a modest success in financial terms.

1952 Oslo
Schwere Jungs 2006 (Heavyweights)
A low budget film based, if very loosely, on the story of the heavyweight German bobsleigh crew that won two gold medals at the Oslo Olympics.

1956 Melbourne
Geordie (1955)
A gentle British romantic comedy about a skinny young Scots boy who, with a help of a Charles Atlas type bodybuilding course, turns himself into a champion hammer thrower. He’s unable to perform well until he wears his father’s kilt in competition. This trick turns him from an also ran into the Olympic champion.

Szabadság, Szerelem (Children of Glory) (2006)
Using fictional lead characters and including a romantic subplot, the film weaves in the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 with the Hungarian water polo’s Olympic campaign and, in particular, “The Blood in the Water Match” between Hungary and the USSR in Melbourne.

1964 Tokyo
Walk Don’t Run (1966)

You can just imagine the conversation that led to the making of this film.
“O.K. Whatcha got?”
“Well, it’s a romantic comedy based on the accommodation shortage at the Tokyo Olympics”
“And the romantic lead is a race walker”
“This isn’t promising”
“But we got Cary Grant”
“And there’s a cameo from the guy who plays Sulu in Star Trek”
“What’s Star Trek?”
“Ah well, it hasn’t been made yet but, trust me, it’s going to be big”
“That settles it, go ahead and make the film”
The story concerns a secretary at the British Embassy who lets out half her apartment to a British businessman, played by Grant, who sublets to the American walker. The rest of the film revolves around Grant’s attempt to get the pair together romantically.

1968 Grenoble
Downhill Racer 1969
Robert Redford stars as an egotistic American skier who clashes with team mates and official alike.
Of course he gets things together to win the Olympic title.

1972 Munich
Prefontaine (1997)
Without Limits (1998)
Two biopics of American distance runner Steve Prefontaine were released within a year of each other. Both portray Prefontaine as a maverick, headstrong but naturally gifted runner though they are told from different viewpoints. “Prefontaine” was told through the eyes of assistant coach Bill Dellinger whilst “Without Limits” has legendary coach Bill Bowerman as the focus of the film.
“Without Limits” was generally the better reviewed of the pair though both were major box office flops.

Munich (2005)
Stephen Spielberg directed and produced this film which dealt with the aftermath of the murder of members of the Israeli team in 1972. It traces the attempts of a group of Israeli agents to track down and assassinate members of the Black September terrorist group responsible for the massacre.
Although nominated for five Academy Awards, it failed to win in any category.

1980 Lake Placid
Miracle (2004)

This is a retelling of the story of the unlikely victory of the US ice hockey team at the Lake Placid Olympics with Kurt Russell in the lead role of coach Herb Brooks. It’s basically another mismatched band of individuals fashioned into a team by an inspirational coach story but, in this case, done with more than usual style and attention to detail. It made $64,000,000 at the box office which was more than twice the production costs.

1988 Calgary
Cool Runnings (1993)

A heavily fictionalized version of the story of the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team starring Canadian comedian John Candy as a coach very loosely based on US champion Howard Siler. Played heavily for comedy, it became a smash hit and the most successful in box office terms of any film on this list.
The profits from the film now approach $200,000,000.

1988 Seoul
Jappeloup (2013)
This is a French film which traces the story of Pierre Durand, the lawyer who gave up his career to aim for Olympic glory, and his partnership with the horse Jappeloup which took him to the Olympic Games of 1984 and 1988.
It traces his disappointments in Los Angeles and gold medal success in Seoul.
Amongst the cast are the well-known French actor Daniel Auteuil and Canada’s Donald Sutherland.
The film was a critical and commercial success in France.

1992 Albertville
The Cutting Edge 1992
A romantic comedy about a rich and spoilt female skater forced to team up with an ice hockey player in their quest for Olympic glory. A moderate success in cinemas, it gained a new round of popularity when shown on TV and spawned 3 sequels.

1998 Nagano
Take Off (2009)
Yet another film to be based on a true story but which includes plot lines which are completely fictitious.
The story of the founding of a South Korean ski jumping team to compete at the Nagano Olympics soared to success in Korea although it made little progress outside its own country.

2004 Athens
Forever the Moment (2008)
Probably the only major film to centre on women’s handball, the film traces the Korean team on the way to the final of the 2004 Athens Olympics. A relatively formulaic adaptation of a familiar theme of a team of individuals bonding together under an inspirational coach, it was a big success in Korea

Bob Tisdall

Hurdler, Gold Medalist, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Australia

Category Data
Full Name Robert Morton Newburgh "Bob" Tisdall
Used Name Bob Tisdall
Nickname The Irish Wonder
Born 16 May 1907; Nuwara Eliya (SRI)
Died 27 July 2004; Nambour-Queensland (AUS)
Measurements 186 cm / 74 kg
Affiliations Achilles Club (GBR)
Year-Games Sport Event Place Medal
1932 Summer Athletics 400 metres Hurdles 1 Gold
Decathlon 8

A year before the 1932 Olympics, nobody would have even considered Bob Tisdall for the Olympic gold in the 400 m hurdles. While a decent sprinter and high hurdler at Cambridge University, where he majored in agriculture and forestry, Tisdall had never contested the event until, early in 1932, he asked the president of the Irish NOC to send him to Los Angeles for that event. He met the qualifying standard in his second attempt, winning the Irish championship in the event. In 1931 Tisdall had won four events in the Oxbridge meet – the 440 yards, long jump, shot put, and 120 yard hurdles. He was Irish champion in the 120 yard hurdles in 1930 and in the 440 yards hurdles in 1932, but he was not considered of world caliber. But once in Los Angeles, Tisdall was unbeatable. In the final, he even bettered the world record to win the gold medal. He received the medal, but not the record, as Tisdall had knocked over the final hurdle, which was not allowed by the rules of the day for record purposes.

Born in Sri Lanka, raised in Ireland and educated in England, Tisdall emigrated to South Africa at the end of 1933 and while there helped to form the South African-Irish Regiment during World War II. He later lived in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Kenya and Tanzania before returning to Ireland and eventually settling in Nambour, in Queensland, Australia. He participated in the torch relay for the Sydney Olympics, aged 93.

Personal Bests: 400H – 51.67 (1932); Dec – 6398 (1932).

Unrecognized states at the Olympics

Last week, the IOC announced it had provisionally recognized the NOC of Kosovo, making it possible for the breakaway nation to compete in Rio 2016.  Kosovo is now one of three nations not broadly recognized by UN-members to be affiliated with the IOC, after the Republic of China (which is a member under the name of Chinese Taipei) and Palestine (which is a UN-observer since 2012).

Despite its status, Kosovo already has some Olympic history, as do various other un-recognized states in the world. We’ll explore that history below. To determine this countries on this list, we have re-used the criteria as used in the Wikipedia article “List of states with limited recognition“. These criteria hold that the country should either be recognized by at least one UN member state, or it should meet the definition of statehood formed in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States.


Officially, Abkhazia is the north-western tip of Georgia. In practice, the republic seceded after a brief war in the early 1990s. In the wake of the South Ossetia War during the Beijing Olympics, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia. In addition to Russia, only Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru have recognized the Caucasian nation.

Several Abkhazians have competed in the Olympics. The most famous is three-time triple jump champion Viktor Saneyev, who was born in Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia. Saneyev won Olympic gold in 1968, 1972 and 1976, ending his Olympic career with a silver in Moscow 1980. At those same Olympics, another Sukhumi-born athlete won gold: volleyball player Vladimir Dorokhov. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, several Abkhaz-born competitors have represented Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.

Marika Pertakhiya was the only competitor of Abkhaz descent competing in Sochi, just kilometers from the Abkhaz border.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opened in Fisht Stadium, just a few kilometers from the Russian-Abkhaz border. Abkhazia was not allowed to compete, but one Abkhaz-born athlete competed: freestyle skier Marika Pertakhiya. This even caused a minor incident, as the Sochi official site originally listed her place of birth as Gali, Republic of Abkhazia, Russia – which was corrected to Gali, Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia after complaints of the Georgian Olympic Committee.


Kosovo is populated largely by people of Albanian descent. They have attempted to gain independence since the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1992. The conflict with Serbia came to a head in 1999, when NATO intervened and the area eventually came under United Nations administration. The Republic of Kosovo declared its independence of Serbia in 2008, which has met with broad but far from universal recognition.

Kelmendi, judo world champion, is Kosovo’s best known athlete.

A group of IFs has recognized Kosovo (archery, judo, sailing, table tennis and modern pentathlon), while others have granted provisional or associate membership. This has led to the IOC recognizing the Kosovan NOC.  Previously, the IOC declined Kosovan athletes the right to compete as Individual Olympic Athletes under the Olympic Flag. At the London 2012 Olympics, this forced judoka Maljinda Kelmendi to represent Albania. In 2013, she won the world title as a Kosovan.

Prior to Kelmendi, several Kosovars had already competed at the Olympics. For example, the football team that won the gold medal in 1960 featured three players born in what is now Kosovo (Milutin Šoškić, Vladimir Durković and Fahrudin Jusufi). Boxer Aziz Salihu won a bronze in Los Angeles 1984. Two Kosovo-born athletes who fled the country have also won bronze medals, both for Germany: Luan Krasniqi (boxing) and Lira Bajramaj (football).


De jure part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of which 95% of the population is ethnically Armenian. This has frequently led to disputes, culminating in a declaration of independence in 1991. A three year war followed, which ended with a cease-fire that left Nagorno-Karabakh effectively independent but unrecognized by the international community.

Kifayət Qasımova, the most recent Olympian from Nagorno-Karabach.

While Nagorno-Karabakh has national football team – it’s first match was a 1-1 draw with Abkhazia – there are few international sporting achievements to be mentioned. We’ve been able to trace two Olympians who were born in the area that is claimed as part of Nagorno-Karabakh. Wrestler Nelson Davydian won a silver medal in 1976, although he moved out of Nagorno Karabach to Chechnya (and later Ukraine) as a child. Kifayət Qasımova, a judoka at the 2008 and 2012 Games, was also born in what is now Nagorno-Karabach controlled territory.

Northern Cyprus

Cyprus became independent from the United Kingdom in 1960, but after a coup attempt in 1974 by the Greek junta, Turkey invaded the island in order to protect the Turkish-Cypriot citizens. It captured the northern third of the island, and in 1975 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was officially proclaimed. Only recognized internationally by Turkey, the nation is heavily dependent on Turkey.

Meliz Redif (right) is the first Northern Cypriot Olympian.

The state has a National Olympic Committee, but it is not recognized by the IOC. Cyprus itself did not compete in the Olympics until 1980, but various Cypriot competitors have worn Greek colors since 1896. Some of these came from what is now Northern Cyprus, such as Famagusta, but these were all Greek-Cypriots. In 2012, the first Turkish-Cypriot athlete competed at the Olympics, unsurprisingly representing Turkey. Meliz Redif was a member of the Turkish 4×400 m relay team that was eliminated in the semi-finals. A more famous Olympian with ties to Northern Cyprus is British javelin thrower Fatima Whitbread. A medallist in 1984 and 1988, she was born to a Greek-Cypriot mother and a Turkish-Cypriot father.

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

An insurgence in the Spanish colony of Western (or Spanish) Sahara saw Spain forced to withdraw from the territory in 1976. Despite a judgment from the International Court of Justice, Spain had agreed to cede parts of the land to both Morocco and Mauritania. Independence fighters of the Polisario movement declared independence and managed to oust the Mauritanians. A cease-fire between the Moroccos and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic holds since 1991, but the plan to hold a referendum on independence has not been executed.

Blind Paralympic swimmer Enhamed Enhamed, the most successful athlete from Sahrawi.

While Sahrawi does have an unrecognised national football team, we are unaware of an Olympic committee, or of any Olympic athletes with a Sahrawi background. Runner Salah Ameidan was a part of the Moroccan team until he unfurled the outlawed Sahrawi flag at a race in France. He hopes to represent his nation in Rio de Janeiro, but chances that he will succeed are small. At the 2008 Paralympics, the blind swimmer Enhamed Enhamed, who is of Sahrawi descent but was born in Spain, won four gold medals.


The northern part of Somalia, Somaliland declared independence when the central government in Somalia collapsed in 1991. While the separatist government has firm control over its territory, it remains unrecognized by the international community. The provisional Somaliland National Olympic Committee, founded in late 2013, shares that fate.

Abdi Bile won the 1,500 m in the 1987 World Championships.

Records on the origins of athletes from Somalia are very much incomplete, but we are aware of at least one competitor born in the territory of Somaliland. The 1987 World Champion over 1,500 m track, Abdi Bile, was born in Las Anod. In 1996 he placed 6th in the Olympic final. The family of two-time Olympic champion in track running, Mo Farah, also hails from Somaliland, and Farah has celebrated some of his victories by carrying a Somaliland flag.

South Ossetia

The situation in South Ossetia is quite similar to that in Abkhazia. South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1991. A war ensued, which was ended by a ceasefire the following year. The conflict flared up in 2004 and 2008, with Russia supporting Ossetian forces on the latter occasion. Like Abkhazia, only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru recognize the mountainous state.

Although competing for the Unified Team and Greece, Akakios Kakiasvili is the most successful athlete out of South Ossetia.

South Ossetia excels in sports requiring physical strength. Its first native we’ve traced at the Olympics is wrestler Alimbeg Bestayev, who won a bronze for the Soviet Union in 1956; he was later joined by wrestling medalists Besik Kudukhov (Russia) and Gennady Laliyev (Kazakhstan). Shota Chochishvili (USSR) won a gold medal in judo in 1972. The top Olympian born in South Ossetia, however, is Georgian-Greek weightlifter weightlifter Akakios Kakiasvili, a three-time Olympic champion (for the Unified Team and Greece).


Transnistria, a sliver of land east of the Dniestr river, seceded from Moldova during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A brief 1992 war saw Soviet troops support the Transnistrians, and a ceasefire was signed, de facto granting Transnistria self-control.

Quite a few Olympians hail from what is now Transnistria, chiefly from its capital city Tiraspol. The first of them was volleyball player Valentyna Myshak, who won silver with the USSR. The most successful is Larisa Aleksandrova-Popova, a rower, claiming gold an silver in rowing. Transnistrians have represented several countries since 1992, mostly Moldova. So far, one athlete has been born in “independent” Transnistria: backstroke swimmer Dănilă Artiomov, who competed in London.