Everybody knows that what the Olympic Games do best, provide us with unparalleled feats of human performance. The Olympic motto of “Higher, Faster, Stronger” has never proven more apt, as athletes in Beijing have continued to push the boundaries of what we thought was physically possible.
But, as with any major sporting event, there is a lighter side to the Games. As tensions run high, so do emotions, and not all athletes can control that other inevitable side of human nature—error. Arguably, it is this humorous element that gives the Olympics its unique feel.
So, in only the slightest semblance of an order, here are just a few moments from the past two weeks that gave me a right good laugh:
10. Wrestling with the Result
In one of the more widespread stories from this year’s Greco-Roman wrestling competition, Swedish 84kg competitor Ara Abrahamian took a lot of criticism for declining (in perhaps the least polite way possible) his bronze medal, as he believed he had been a victim of “politics” in his semifinal bout.
To be fair, the 2004 silver medalist can be forgiven for being devastated to once again miss out on his target, but a bronze medal is still an Olympic medal. You don’t just put one down and walk away!
Apparently, the big Swede had to be persuaded to even compete in his bronze medal bout, so disgusted was he with the judges' earlier decision. Eventually, he came out and sweated and struggled to earn that medal.
Having gone through all that, he proceeded to get on the podium and just throw away the medal (and his effort). What a waste of time—he didn’t really think that one through, did he?
9. The Surprise of Success.
It’s the classic mistake. You train hard for four years, pushing yourself to the limits while focused completely on winning an Olympic medal. What you never once do though, is prepare yourself for how you might react when you actually reach that target.
That was the problem that befell double-trap shooter Francesco D’Aniello. Having secured a silver medal, the Italian had obviously never worked on his celebration. So he did what came naturally—he broke down and cried like a baby.
Maybe it was the emotion of the event, or maybe it was the prospect of now having to pay tax on his government medal bonus (honestly, it can be a killer)—but the end result was just hilarious to watch.
8. The Perks of the Job
One of the big stories surrounding these Olympics has been the success of Jamaican sprinters. Just how has a nation of under 3m people produced so many elite sprinters?
The answer, for the women at least, could be surprisingly simple—dental plans. You won't hear the story discussed in the media, but the evidence is there for all to see.
Conclusive evidence, then, that it only takes the right medical arrangements to produce world-class runners—the prospect of perfectly presented pearls will dedicate any sprinter. Either that, or putting a magnet on the finish line.
7. Drowning Your Sorrows
Completing a 10km open-water swim is never easy, but especially so if you can’t even swim it straight. Just ask Great Britain’s David Davies. The Welsh swimmer was leading the event for most of the way, but swam way off line in the last 400m to be eventually beaten by Dutchman (and cancer survivor) Maarten van der Weijden.
Not content with that bit of drama, Davies collapsed soon after getting out of the pool, requiring immediate medical attention. Recovered, but by no means finished for the day, he proceeded to empty a bottle of water over a particularly belligerent Chinese official while doing a press conference.
All in all, an eventful day for the 23-year-old.
6. All That Glitters is Not Gold.
It is not just the prestige of winning the Olympics that makes people all over the world dedicate themselves to the cause. Oh no, some curious souls are just really intrigued to know what a gold medal actually tastes like.
Fortunately for them, China's Huo Liang revealed the answer they had been searching for after his success in synchronized diving:
"When you bite it, there's not much flavor," he commented.
So, now you know.
5. Should have gone to Specsavers
Without his greatest rival, Liu Xiang, to compete against, Dayron Robles' final ended as one of the most dominating performances of the whole Games. The Cuban 110m hurdler was comfortable in his 12.94sec run that guaranteed him a gold medal.
Added to his gold, the 21-year-old has now run more sub-13 second races than either Xiang or (former world-record holder) Colin Jackson have done in their entire career. The guy is an elite athlete—why then, does he look like he has been given day-release from the local library?!
I could appreciate it if Robles had some crazy Kareem Abdul Jabbar-esque specs, or even those high-tech sunglasses many athletes wear nowadays. But his pair looks more like something your dad puts on when he wants to read the Sunday papers.
Maybe contact lenses haven’t reached Cuba yet, or maybe Robles really wants to be sure of where he is going. At the moment though, it just looks like he is trying to be a younger version of The Wire’s Lester Freamon.
4. Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Or so the old adage goes. Apparently though, it is not always the case—as the Spanish Olympic Basketball team might be able to tell you. The boys, at the behest of team sponsors Seur, were responsible for one of the more controversial moments of these Games, after posing for that photograph.
Of course, at the end of it all, the Spanish authorities really couldn’t see what they had done wrong—even going as far as to accuse the international media of a hate campaign against their fair nation.
Kind gesture or casual racism? Either way, it will prove one of the more unforgettable moments from these Beijing Olympics.
3. A Bolt from the Blue (or Yellow).
After much debate, I have concluded that Usain Bolt’s epic performance in the 100m (and 200m) final should be in this list of funniest moments of the Olympics. After all, having watched him race, there is little else you can do but laugh.
His world record time of 9.69s in the 100m was nothing short of incredible, especially as he seemed to do it without sprinting the whole way. Another world record in the 200m, breaking Michael Johnson’s 12-year-old mark, was simply the icing on the cake.
The funny thing though, is that Bolt went about his business in the most comical of fashions. He laughed, danced, and generally played up to the crowd. He made the "archery" pose an instant cult classic. He ran the 100m with a shoelace undone.
He smiled, and the world smiled with him. You couldn’t script it.
2. Every Inch Counts
Having said all that, Bolt still has a trick or two he could learn—as it seems could all sprinters. In the 400m final, USA athlete David Neville showed every athlete the easy way to faster times.
The key, it appears, is to ignore all self-respect and simply throw yourself across the line. The philosophy is simple: The bruises will heal, but the medals will be real.
Fair play to Neville, however, as his unorthodox dive (maybe he'd do well in the gymnastics?!) undoubtedly stole him a bronze. Completing an American one-two-three in the event, he might also have “stumbled” across a new way to finish sprint races—with a dive like that, could Bolt go sub 9.5s?!
1. You Don’t Pick the Horse, The Horse Picks You
Judged on the last two weeks, the show-jumping phase of the modern pentathlon must rank as the most random event in the whole Olympics. For a start, you have to wonder why horse-riding is part of a supposed “modern” event—I mean, wouldn’t trying to navigate rush-hour traffic in a Hyundai Sonata be a more appropriate task?
Whatever the reasoning, show-jumping is one of the five disciplines. But unlike the individual horse-riding events, the pentathletes do not have their own horse; instead they ride a completely unfamiliar horse. One they picked out of a hat, earlier the same day.
Fortunately, all horses come with a description, which appear to fall into three categories: “spooky”, “lazy” or “normal”. That, and 15 mins to "get to know" the horse, are all the competitors get.
Riding a horse is pretty simple (or so I've been told). The problem, however, comes when the athletes actually try to jump a few hurdles. With unforgiving conditions disturbing the horses, onlookers were treated to a spectacle of failed jumps, refusals and even falls. Many riders (in the men’s event at least) couldn’t even complete the course—as their new partners simply refused to move.
For the world’s greatest sporting event, such a show of incompetence must serve as one of the funniest moments of Beijing 2008. Any time an Olympic competitor gets 628 penalty points you can't help but have a chuckle.
So these are my picks for some of the funniest moments of the Olympic Games. But I haven't seen every event (although God knows I've tried!), so please let me know if you think there are any incidents I have missed out!