Not everything goes smoothly during the Olympics. From simple errors to questionable actions by athletes and officials, these five controversial moments from London 2012 will go down in Olympic lore.
5. ‘Sick’ Algerian runner quits race, wins gold
A day before he was to run the 1500m, Algerian middle distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi was thrown out of the Olympics for not trying to win an 800m qualifying heat, a race he didn’t want to compete in but that team officials didn’t withdraw him from in time. So he dogged the race from the start, then quit it altogether. Initially kicked out of the Games for that lack of effort, he was reinstated when he got a doctor’s note saying he wasn’t well enough to compete in the 800m. He won the 1,500m the next day.
4. Which Korea is it?
The first (competition-related) scandal of the Games happened before the Olympics had officially begun. During the introductions of a preliminary soccer game, held two days before the Opening Ceremony, the image of a South Korean flag was displayed next to a North Korean player during introductions. That didn’t go over well with the North Koreans (global politics lesson: North Korea and South Korea aren’t best buds). The North Korean team refused to take the field for mroe than an hour but the game was eventually played.
3. One long second
With :01 left in overtime of her semifinal epee bout, South Korea’s Shin A-lam held a match tiebreaker over her German opponent and had all but punched her ticket to the gold medal match. But questionable judging and timekeeping led to a very long and eventful final second of play, at the end of which A-lam had lost. For the next 70 minutes she refused to leave the piste, since rules dictate that a fencer who leaves the piste accepts the judges’ decision. Her quiet, tearful protest as she sat in the darkened arena will be one of the lasting images of these Games. Her loss was upheld, and she went on to lose the bronze-medal match. She later won a silver medal in the team competition.
2. They’re not even trying
How did badminton, of all sports, ruffled international feathers? In an effort to get better draws during round robin play, two teams from South Korea and one each from Indonesia and China deliberately tried to lose matches, making ‘mistakes’ that even the casual backyard barbecue player would be embarrassed by. All four teams were expelled from the Olympics, but it didn’t bother the Chinese: all five badminton events were still won by teams from China.
1. Boxing and more boxing
Azerbaijani bantamweight Magomed Abdulhamidov got the daylights knocked out of him in the third and final round against Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu, falling or getting knocked down six times and generally looking like a man desperately in need of the white towel; except that the judges’ scored him the win. That decision was overturned on appeal and the ref was dismissed. Then an Azerbaijani heavyweight who was clearly outboxed won his match, too, assuring him a bronze medal. Many wondered if there was a connection between these outcomes and a $9 million loan the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) received from Azerbaijan last year. The AIBA gracefully handled all of the controversy by expelling NBC’s boxing commentators – who were highly critical of the judging – from their ringside seats for the final rounds of competition.