August 5th, 2016 marks the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the ceremonies have already been mired in controversy, from a Russian doping scandal to being ground zero for the inevitable global spread of the Zika virus. Controversy is somewhat of a long-held tradition for the Olympics. It's so common, in fact, that if scandals and controversy were events at the games, the Olympics would take the gold.
At the height of the civil rights movement in America, U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood atop the winner's podium at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City and, during the national anthem, lowered their heads and raised their gloved fists in the air in a defiant call for equal rights. In the immediate aftermath, they were suspended from the U.S. team and received death threats from their fellow countrymen. Today, their gesture is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in civil rights history.
On March 21st, 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared that the United States would boycott that summer's Olympic games, which were to take place in Moscow. It was Carter's reaction to the Soviet Union's failure to remove its troops from Afghanistan.
The Soviets initially invaded the country in 1979 to reestablish its communist regime after it was overtaken by Islamic rebels, and there was concern that their invasion could reignite the Cold War. Canada, West Germany and Japan also joined the boycott, leaving the Soviet Union to bide its time until it would have its revenge.
The 1984 Summer Olympics were set to be held in Los Angeles, and the Soviet Union had not forgotten what happened in 1980. They boycotted the 1984 games, citing America's anti-Soviet stance as justification for sitting out that summer. Thirteen different communist countries joined the boycott, which slightly backfired on them since America went on to win a record 83 gold medals during those games.
The Olympics are no stranger to doping scandals, but, according to the Vancouver Sun, it all began at 1960 games in Rome with Danish cyclist Knud Jensen. Prior to the race, Jensen was given Roniacol, which was meant to increase blood circulation in his body. He lost consciousness during the race and fell from his bike. He died shortly after.
In the early hours of July 27th, 1996, a 40-pound pipe bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Police received a call prior to the bomb going off, telling them that they had 30 minutes to find it. Two people died and more than 100 others were injured in the blast.
Prior to the 1972 gold medal match in Munich between the USA and the Soviet Union's basketball teams, America had an undefeated Olympic record at 63-0. That perfect record would end in a sea of confusion and controversy.
Towards the end of the game, the U.S. was up 50-49 after American Doug Collins missed two free throws. With three seconds left on the clock, the Soviet's botched their inbound's pass and time ran out. Renato William Jones, Secretary General of the International Basketball Federation, stormed the court and demanded that three seconds be put back on the clock, citing technicalities and rule violations that few understood. The Soviets would not make the same inbounding mistake, scoring a layup and stealing the gold from team USA.
Easily one of the most famous disapproving faces ever to come out of the Olympics, gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" look stemmed from botching the landing of her final vault during the 2012 London games. Expected to win the gold before her fall, she ended up taking silver and clearly wasn't pleased. But the internet gave her something better than a gold medal: They turned her into a meme.
During a bronze medal taekwondo match at the 2008 games in Beijing, Cuba's Angel Matos hit the mat after being struck by his opponent. Matos sat waiting for medical attention and was disqualified after taking longer than the allotted injury time fighters are given, which is one minute. Upset with the decision, Matos kicked referee Chakir Chelbat in the face. He was immediately banned from the games and was escorted out.
The taekwondo referee kicking wasn't the only incident during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian lost his chance at capturing the gold medal over what his coach referred to as "politics." Abrahamian won the bronze and, during the medal ceremony, he removed his medal, threw it onto the ground in disgust and walked out. The IOC disqualified him, but stopped short of rewarding his medal to his opponent in the bronze medal match, France's Francais Melonin Noumonvi.
One more controversy from Beijing, and this one came before the games even properly started. During the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics, nine-year-old Lin Miaoke sang "Ode to the Motherland" and became a sensation in China. The only problem, though, was that she wasn't the one singing. The voice actually belonged to Yang Peiyi, who was deemed not photogenic enough to appear in the ceremony. Though many were outraged, Peiyi didn't seem to mind. When asked by a CCTV Journalist if she was upset, she replied, "No, my voice was there."
Easily the most devastating incident to ever take place during the Olympic games was the Munich Massacre in 1972. A Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September held 11 Israeli Olympic athletes hostage in their hotel room, torturing and killing them in the span of a 20-hour standoff with German authorities.