Editor’s note: Tom Ecker of Cedar Rapids is an Olympic historian
In Rio, it is being said that the Olympics are cursed. There are well-publicized pollution problems, construction fiascos and reports of widespread drug abuse among athletes.
But worst of all, the Chinese flags in the stadium are flawed. The four smaller yellow stars on the flags are supposed to be slightly tilted so they point toward the larger yellow star. In Rio, the stars are straight and are parallel with the big star. The Chinese consider this a serious problem. Substitute flags are being manufactured (probably made in China) to replace the flawed flags.
Problems of polluted waters are not new to the Olympic Games. In the Paris Olympics in 1900, the swimming events were held in the River Seine, where the wakes of passing boats and the encounters with floating garbage made swimming difficult. Yet, the swift current helped produce some spectacular times. In the 200-meter freestyle, Australian Freddy Lane broke the world record by 13 seconds.
Construction problems have been common throughout Olympic history. Most notable were those at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. The Olympic Stadium was not completed in time for the opening ceremonies, and is not finished to this day, 40 years later.
Drug abuse was first reported in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. The drugs, used by American distance runner Thomas Hicks, were brandy, raw eggs and strychnine.