It’s hard to imagine a more iconic sporting event than the Olympics. Ever since the competition started in Ancient Greece (albeit in an almost unrecognisable form compared to today’s games), society has been obsessed with the sheer athletic spectacle of watching people at peak physical form compete with one another for supremacy.
Best Olympic Moments Of All Time
In a competition that’s been around for so long, it stands to reason that there would be thousands upon thousands of unforgettable events to look back on fondly. Here, in no particular order, are the ten most iconic Olympic moments in history.
The 200-metre podium ceremony, 1968
This is a moment that has gone down in civil rights history. When accepting their medals for winning the gold and bronze in the 1968 200-metre run, athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in a solemn salute.
Both athletes were African-American and wore necklaces meant to symbolise the disgusting practice of lynching; this podium ceremony would go down as one of the most political moments in Olympic history and is still causing controversial ripples to this day.
The Jamaican bobsled team, 1988
While it may be true that the majority of the beloved 1993 movie Cool Runnings is fiction, the Jamaican bobsled team of 1988 is legendary nonetheless. The team may have been disqualified for crashing out. Still, as Devon Harris told Betway Insider, the Jamaican people were “so welcoming and proud” after their loss that it went down in Olympic history as an actual underdog moment. Harris is still hungry; he still wants Jamaica to be one of the world’s premier bobsledding teams.
The first perfect 10 in gymnastics, 1976
At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Russian gymnast Nadia Comăneci was out to prove herself. She was a master of the uneven bars, which showed itself in her result; an astonishing perfect 10. She was the first Olympic uneven bars gymnast ever to receive a perfect score, and while this has been achieved numerous times since, it’s still pretty rare. Fun fact: Comăneci would go on to receive several more perfect ten scores for her career!
Usain Bolt’s last hurrah, 2016
Usain Bolt is a genuinely remarkable sprinter, and at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics – his last competition, it would turn out – he set out to prove that to himself, the judges, and his fans. Bolt is the fastest human being in history, and at Rio, he defended that title, not quite breaking his record of 9.58 seconds but still finishing with an incredibly respectable 9.81. This also made Bolt the first sprinter in history to win three consecutive 100m sprint events.
Michael Phelps’ medals, 2012
Do you know who the male Olympian with the most medals is? Well, we gave it away at the top of this list item; it’s swimmer Michael Phelps, of course, who has an incredible total of 28 medals to his name across his entire competitive career. Phelps achieved this milestone in 2012 when he soared past former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who was the most decorated athlete until Phelps shattered her record. It’s fair to say he’s one of the most excellent Olympic swimmers of all time.
Slowest swim time, 2000
Some iconic Olympic moments don’t become well-known because they show an athlete triumphing over adversity, far from it. At the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, athlete Eric Moussambani, a swimmer for Equatorial Guinea, swam the entire competition alone because his competitors were, remarkably, disqualified from the event. Moussambani now holds the world record for the slowest Olympic time, probably because he knew he didn’t need to rush.
The Berlin games, 1936
As you can likely imagine, the climate around the Berlin games in 1936 was, to say the least, politically controversial. Fascism and the Nazi party were rising in Germany, so many countries discussed boycotting the games altogether to send a message. However, this didn’t happen, and the games went ahead as usual. American athlete Jesse Owens, then a young Black American man, went on to win four gold medals, thus destroying Hitler’s idea of the so-called supremacy of the Aryan race.
Florence Griffith Joyner sets records, 1984
Did you know that the records set by the women’s 100-metre and 200-metre sprint in the 1984 Olympics have not yet been beaten? It’s true – athlete Florence Griffith Joyner smashed both of these records at the event, and as yet, no athlete has managed to beat her 10.54 record for the 100-metre sprint or her time of 21.34 seconds. Unfortunately, Joyner died in her sleep at the age of 38 due to an epileptic seizure, but her legacy remains.
Greg Louganis’ heroic recovery, 1988
The 1988 Olympics were incredibly eventful. Not only were these the games in which the Jamaican bobsled team made history, but they were also the games in which diver Greg Louganis made a botched dive, smashing his head against the diving board and requiring medical attention as a result. Louganis rallied the next day and, astonishingly, went on to win a gold medal despite his injuries. Don’t try this at home, but do see it as an incredible feat of dedication from a determined athlete.
Lawrence Lemieux’s heroism, 1988
And here we have yet another moment from the 1988 games! Lawrence Lemieux was a Canadian sailor destined for greatness at the 1988 Olympic Games in South Korea. However, Lemieux noticed that one of his competitors’ boats had capsized due to fierce winds. Discarding all notions of victory, he intentionally disqualified himself from the race and helped save the lives of the sailors who had capsized. Incredibly, he still managed to come 21st (unofficially), beating 11 other competitors!