2014 Winter Olympics: 5 Strange Stories from Previous Games

Jonathan PowellContributor IIIFebruary 7, 2014

Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, Pool)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Holy luge and curling, Batman! The 22nd Winter Olympic Games are underway in Sochi.

I know what you’re thinking: Who not named Shaun White watches the Winter Olympics? Not this guy...well, maybe. Believe it or not, the Winter Olympics have actually produced some pretty interesting moments, on and off the field of play.

For example, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan figure skating saga. For those not familiar with the story, let me bring you up to speed.

In 1994, Harding and Kerrigan were competing for dominance in the world of U.S. women’s figure skating. In an attempt to secure a victory at nationals and an Olympic berth, Harding’s ex-husband ordered a steel-pipe “hit” on Kerrigan’s knees during a practice session.

While I will abstain from divulging what age I was while this real-life Lifetime movie played out on the nightly news, I can tell you that the image of Kerrigan curled up on the floor of an ice rink, holding her knee, and screaming “why!” will forever be ingrained in my memory.

Crazy story, huh? There are many more bizarre instances patched into the quilt of Winter Olympic history. Here are a few of the craziest.

17 Feb 2002: (L-R) David Pelletier and Jamie Sale of Canada stand on the podium with Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya of Russia and pose with their gold medals in the pairs during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the Salt Lake Ice Centeri
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


2002 Games

In the Salt Lake City Games, two gold medals were given out to representatives of two different countries (Russia and Canada) for the first time ever.

During the figure skating pairs competition, it was uncovered that the French judge (Marie-Reine Le Gougne) was pressured to award the Canadian team (Jamie Sale and David Pelletier) low scores in hopes of helping the French tandem advance further in the competition. Tsk, tsk.


1998 Games

Ice dancing was almost stripped of its status of being an Olympic sport following discovered instances of corruption in its judging process.

During the Games in Nagano, an ice-dancing judge was recorded trying to predetermine the results of a competition. In weirder news, the average fan still cannot differentiate between ice dancing and figure skating.


SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06:  Winston Watts of Jamaica pilots a bobsleigh practice run ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

1988 Games 

The tropical nation of Jamaica sent their first-ever representatives to the Winter Games in the form of a bobsled team.

Yup, you heard me—a Jamaican bobsled team. They didn’t even have their own sled!

Playing the role of the ultimate underdogs, the Jamaican bobsledders captured the hearts of everyone following the Games in Calgary. The pressure of being global darlings must have gotten to them because they crashed their sled during an official run and could not finish the competition.

On the bright side, Disney adapted the team’s experience into a feel good, fish-out-of-water movie called Cool Runnings. Oh, and they are back this year...look out!


1976 Games

Denver became the first city to turn down the opportunity to host the Olympic Games.

In order to quell the concerns many citizens had of overcrowding with the masses of global spectators expected to attend the ceremonies, the Olympic committee moved the games to Innsbruck, Austria.

Wait, an American city turned down an opportunity for publicity and tons of tourist dollars? The '70s were indeed a unique time.


1968 Games

During the Games in Grenoble, Austrian alpine skier Karl Schranz was awarded a “do-over” in the slalom race when he claimed that a “mysterious man dressed in black”, as documented by the Australian Olympic Committee, appeared out of nowhere and interfered in his downhill route, resulting in a slow time.

In his second run, Schranz was able to speed it up and capture the gold medal, only to have it taken away later when judges discovered he missed a slalom gate during his first run.

The old “mysterious man dressed in black” trick almost worked…almost.

With the Sochi Olympics already shrouded in controversy, I’m sure there will be a few noteworthy stories to come out of the 2014 Games. The tales of twin toilets, yellow water and shower surveillance already have me intrigued enough to watch.