With 10,293 athletes competing across 28 sports for 306 gold medals over 16 days, the 2016 Olympics in Rio is set to be watched by 3.6 billion people worldwide. RL360° takes a look back to some of the greatest Olympic moments of all time.
1) 1936 Berlin – Jesse Owens defies Hitler: Hitler wanted the 1936 Games in Berlin to showcase the superiority of the “new Aryan man”. Owen’s 4 gold medals shattered that myth, though ironically Owens faced significant discrimination when he returned to a racially divided USA.
2) 1968 Mexico – Beamon’s impossible leap: Before American Bob Beamon’s amazing jump in the high altitude of Mexico City, no one had jumped further than 27 feet, 10 inches. Beamon’s leap of 29 feet 2.5 inches was so long the organisers had to bring in a longer tape to measure it. His incredible record stood for 23 years.
3) 1976 Montreal – Nadia Comaneci scores the perfect 10: At 4ft 11 and weighing just 6st 2lbs, the 14 year old Romanian gymnast took to the asymmetric bars in Montreal and achieved what experts said was impossible – the perfect 10.00. So unexpected was the result that the digital scoreboard couldn’t actually display 4 digits.
4) 1980 Moscow – Coe v Ovett: The 1980 Olympics, played out under the cloud of the US boycott, was the event of reckoning for Britain’s great middle distance runners, Seb Coe and Steve Ovett. They’d only met once on the track before the Games and the media hyped up their rivalry in the lead up to the Games. In the end, honours were even. Ovett won the 800m, but Coe took gold in the 1,500m.
5) 1988 Seoul – Ben Johnson tests positive: Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson broke the 100m world record in taking gold at the Seoul Olympics. But within 48 hours, triumph turned to disgrace as Johnson’s urine sample was shown to have tested positive for the banned substance stanozolol. Johnson was stripped of his medal and world record. 6 of the 8 100m finalists in Seoul were tainted by positive tests or rumours of doping.
6) 1992 Barcelona – heroic Redmond crosses the line with his Dad: British 400m runner Derek Redmond was a genuine medal prospect but half way into the semi final his hamstring gave way and he collapsed to the track in agony. Instead of being stretchered off, Redmond bravely hauled himself up and began limping round the track, eventually crossing the line supported by his father who had rushed onto the track to support his son.
7) 2000 Sydney – Redgrave makes it 5 in a row: Some athletes have won more titles than rower Steve Redgrave’s haul of 5 gold medals. But what makes Redgrave arguably the greatest Olympian of all time is that his medals spanned 16 years, and 5 Olympic Games, culminating in a narrow victory, aged 38, in the men’s coxless 4s.
8) 2008 Beijing – Phelps wins 8 golds: Mark Spitz had won 7 golds in Munich, but American swimmer Michael Phelps went one better in the pool at Beijing in 2008. Over the course of 8 days he won all 8 events he entered (in World Record times) and secured the greatest single haul of gold medals the Games has ever seen. Including the Athens and London games, Phelps won an incredible 18 Olympic golds.
9) 2008 Beijing – Bolt astonishes the world: The 100m had long been mired in controversy and drug-cheating when Usian Bolt suddenly re-ignited the world’s love affair with sprinting. The popular and charismatic Jamaican sprinter smashed the world record in both the 100m and 200m finals. He was so far ahead of the field he was even able to slow down as he approached the winning tape.
10) 2012 London – Super Saturday’s British gold rush: A joyous London Games reached its pinnacle for the host nation on the middle Saturday. Earlier gold medals in rowing (x 2) and cycling set the scene for an unforgettable night of athletics in the Olympic stadium. First Jess Ennis won the heptathlon gold, Greg Rutherford then surprisingly leapt to victory in the long jump, and then in a thrilling finale Mo Farah was victorious in the 10,000m.