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Historic moments

Historic moments
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The Olympics are a time for the whole world to come together, celebrate athletic achievements, and cheer for their teams and the stars. Yet even the Olympics are not immune to international conflict and controversy, nor to worldwide crises. From boycotts, protests, and postponements to showstopping and record-breaking triumphs, these are the moments that shook the world while everyone was watching.

Paris, 1900: First female athletes

Paris, 1900: First female athletes
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Women were never allowed to compete in the Olympics until the Paris Games in 1900 when their participation in lawn tennis and golf events secured a position for female athletes in future Games. The London 2012 Olympics signified a new gender milestone with the debut of Women’s Boxing, and it was the first Games in Olympic history with female athletes from every competing country.

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Berlin, 1936: Owens breaks records

Berlin, 1936: Owens breaks records
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Black athlete Jesse Owens broke records and won several gold medals, shattering Hitler’s aim to use the 1936 Games as an example of the “new Aryan man.” Owens later befriended his German competitor in the long jump, Luz Long, and the pair’s lap of honour became a symbol of the triumph of sportsmanship over Nazi ideology.

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London, 1948: Wheelchair athletes compete

London, 1948: Wheelchair athletes compete
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English doctor Ludwig Guttmann founded the International Wheelchair Games to help rehabilitate wounded veterans of World War II. Using sports therapy, he invited wheelchair athletes to compete, and the event eventually became the modern Paralympic Games.

Rome, 1960: Television, and scandals

Rome, 1960: Television, and scandals
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As the first Olympics ever to be televised and include a brand endorsement by an athlete, the Rome Games ushered in a new era of commercialism and changed the way the world viewed its Olympians. The Games also spotlighted a negative side of the competition with the first doping scandal, revealing how far some athletes would go to bring home the gold.’

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Mexico City, 1968: Civil-rights protest

Mexico City, 1968: Civil-rights protest
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At the height of the civil rights movement in the United States, Black American athletes were encouraged to boycott the Games. Instead, African-American sprinters John Carlos (right) and Tommie Smith (left) staged a non-violent protest by raising their fists in a Black Power salute while the national anthem played during their medal ceremony. Although they were consequently suspended from the Olympic Village, their silent demonstration brought the American battle over civil rights to the international stage.

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Munich, 1972: Terror replaces peace

Munich, 1972: Terror replaces peace
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Tragedy infamously marred the Munich Games when 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists. Although the Olympics continued and the incident led to increased security, the message of international peace promoted by the Games was permanently damaged.

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Montreal, 1976: African nations boycott

Montreal, 1976: African nations boycott
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Human rights were at the forefront of the Montreal Games after 22 African nations boycotted the Olympics because New Zealand was participating. Earlier that year, New Zealand had sparked outrage among African countries when it sent its national rugby team to play in South Africa, which was under apartheid. This marked the first of several politically motivated boycotts of the Olympics.

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Moscow, 1980: US boycotts, hosts alternate games

Moscow, 1980: US boycotts, hosts alternate games
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With the Cold War ongoing, President Jimmy Carter urged US allies to pull their Olympic teams from the Games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The United States did not participate in the Olympics that summer and instead hosted the Liberty Bell Classic in Philadelphia as an alternative competition for athletes of countries supporting the boycott.

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Barcelona, 1992: Pros play the Olympics

Barcelona, 1992: Pros play the Olympics
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The 1992 US Men’s Olympic basketball team, nicknamed the “Dream Team” for its impressive line-up of the biggest names in basketball – Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing to name a few – was the first time active NBA players were recruited for an Olympic team. The team crushed the competition as it made its way towards the final (winning all eight games) and ultimately defeated Croatia to bring home the gold medal. Still today, the Dream Team is widely celebrated as the greatest team ever assembled in any sport.

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