Facts, strange & bizarre

Twenty-seven year old James Connolly, the first medallist in Olympic history, abandoned his studies at Harvard to take part in the 1896 Olympics in Athens.

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Oscar Swahn of Sweden carved a niche for himself, claiming a gold medal in shooting at the age of 72 in Antwerp in 1920.

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Over 1000 journalists were accredited for the 1924 Games in Paris.

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Asia came on the medals tally in 1928 in Amsterdam when Japan’s Mikio Oda won the triple jump.

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The system of awarding gold, silver and bronze medals came into vogue in 1904 in St. Louis. Till then the winner got a silver medal.

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Fred Lorz, running the marathon in 1904, finished first, but it was discovered that he had travelled 11 miles of the route in a car!

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The saga of Jesse Owens in 1936 almost dwarfed the achievement of his US compatriot, the 12-year old Marjorie Gestring, in spring board diving.

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Cuba’s Felix Carvajal, a postman from Havana, fought against many odds to reach St. Louis to participate in the marathon. He managed to pay for his trip by begging in Havana’s public square. But on the way, he was robbed of his possessions in New Orleans.

Still left with 700 miles to cover, he ran the distance to be in time in St. Louis, begging for food on the way, and managed to enter the race.

He was preparing to run in his long pants and long-sleeved shirt and hiking shoes, but another athlete convinced him to cut off his sleeves and pant legs because of the 100-degree heat. There were 31 runners at the start and only 14 managed to finish. Felix was fourth.

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Marathoner Kokichi Tsuburaya, Japan’s last hope to win a gold medal in track at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, was so disconsolate after his defeat that he committed hara-kiri. In his suicide note, he apologised for having failed his country. Tsuburaya had finished third in the race to win the bronze medal.

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The English national anthem was played only on three occasions in 1948 — during the opening and closing ceremonies and when Princess Elizebeth arrived. On the contrary, the German anthem was played 477 times during the 1936 Games in Berlin.

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This Olympic Creed (or Olympic Message) has appeared on the scoreboard during the Opening Ceremony of every modern Olympic Games. Baron de Coubertin was inspired to adopt this creed after he heard a sermon by the Bishop of Pennsylvania, at a service for Olympic Athletes in 1908.

It is: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”

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Alice Coachman was the first African-American woman to win an Olympic event. She won a gold medal in high jump in 1948 in London.

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African ace Abebe Bikila was a surprise winner of the 1964 marathon in Tokyo, and the organisers were stumped in not having the Ethiopian national anthem at the medal ceremony. Instead, they played the Japanese anthem!