Today kicks off the Rio Olympics and many of us are looking forward to seeing some great competitions in these summer games. Who will win big? What upsets will we see? Who will become a star? Before we answer those burning questions, let’s look back on some of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.
The summer Olympics have always been an epic event and they’ve offered some of the greatest moments in sports history. Now, of course, there have been the dark periods in the Olympic past, such as the 1972 Munich games, but since we’re all hoping for the best with this year’s games, let’s focus on those uplifting, inspirational and purely enjoyable moments from past summer Olympics.
Athens 1896: The first modern Olympics games are held
An obvious place to start as it began our modern fascination with these worldwide competitions. And of course Athens was the obvious host since it’s the place that birthed the Olympic games.
Paris 1900: First female athletes
While the first modern Olympics was a boys club, the next go around they allowed women competitors in games like lawn tennis and golf.
Berlin 1936: Jesse Owens beats Hitler
Owens was an American track and field star who took home four gold medals in Berlin as Adolf Hitler, a man who loudly spoke of White superiority, looked on.
London 1948: “The Flying Housewife”
Fanny Blankers-Koen, a 30-year-old mother of two, became the most successful athlete at the 1948 Olympics after winning four gold medals.
Sydney 2000: North and South Korean unite
Before the games even started, the world was given the powerful image of seeing the North Korean and South Korean athletes walking together under a shared flag.
Rome 1960: Abebe Bikila runs a marathon barefoot
Bikila was a Ethiopian long distance runner who ran a marathon in his bare feet. He won the gold.
Barcelona 1992: Derek Redmond
Derek Redmond, a British runner, tore his hamstring halfway through his sprint. Determined to finish, Redmond was helped to his feet when his father leapt onto the track and walked him to the finish line.
Montreal 1976: Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won three gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, and became the first female gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event.
Mexico City 1968: A powerful salute from the podium
An iconic image as American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved hands in the Black Power salute during the 200-meter medal ceremony.
Seoul 1988: The sickening splash
Audiences around the world held their breath as they witnessed American diver Greg Louganis hit his head off the diving board mid somersault and fell unconscious into the pool. Despite the injury, Louganis went on to win gold.
Barcelona, 1992: The Dream Team
While it may not have made for the most exciting competitions, the 1992 American basketball team which featured an all-star lineup, including Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley, was too good to pass up.
Atlanta 1996: Muhammad Ali Lights the Torch
One of the greatest athletes to have ever lived made an emotional appearance, fighting through his own illness, to kick off the Olympic games.
Beijing 2008: Phelps takes most gold ever
Phelps performance in the 2008 Olympics will go down in history as one of the greatest performances in Olympic history. No matter what country you happen to live in, likely you were cheering him on regardless.
Beijing 2008: Usain Bolt introduces himself
The Jamaican runner broke record after record in his Beijing performance and became one of the most beloved athletic personalities worldwide.
Atlanta 1996: Kerri Strug
One of the most famous Olympic moments, despite injuring her ankle on her first vault attempt, Strug stuck the landing on her second go. Her coach needed to carry her to the podium to accept her gold medal.