Olympics: History, Facts and News (Updated)

Now that Beijing Olympics is going to start today on August 8, media is rushing to let you know about many Olympics facts. Some of them were new to me, some I was contemplating from a new perspective. by the way, did you notice todays’s date: 08-08-08. πŸ™‚

It surprised me to know men feigned as women in Olympics because they thought it was easier to gain medals in female competitions. So to be sure that only females were participating, female athletes were paraded in nude before a panel of doctors. Now the lab has come up with a test that all female athletes have to take to prove their gender. 😦 Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of her silver medal at the Asian Games, two years ago, after failing a verification test. You can read more about this sex-verification stuff at this NY Times article.

Yuu can know 10 facts about ancient Olympics. They all played in nude then! Only prudes were known to cover their organs. 😦 It was Romans who banned Ancient Olympics as they believe it to be a pagan activity.

I read a nice article in Outlook, that listed all the laurels Indian had got in past in Olympics. It was hockey that harvested most golds for India in Olympics. Even after a movie like Chak De, its has been hard to revive Indian Hockey. We just saw suspension of hockey federation by Indian Olympic Association.

It was an anglo-Indian Norman Pritchard who bagged silver medals for India in 1900 Olymics. But Britishers insisted that medal were theirs, though IOA credits these medals to India. Norman Pritchard went on to act in Hollywood and Broadway.

It felt sad to revisit the fact that P. T. Usha missed bronze medal by one hundredth of a second. One hundredth of a second!

Milkha Singh at extreme right, narrowly misses the race

Milkha Singh at extreme right, narrowly misses the race

Photo courtesy Hindu Photo Library

The legend of Milkha Singh in 1960 Olympics at Rome is also hard to forget. This ‘flying Sikh’ was leading in 400m final but turned back to look at his competitors, and was overtaken by 3 others. A regretful loss of a possible gold medal. See what now 72-year-old Milkha Singh has got to tell about his life.

This year India is hoping to reap medals in tennis, boxing and shooting at this Olympics. This year India is first time sending a team of swimmers. India is only sending 57-sportsperson (but 42 officials!) for 302 events. World press has not even commented on our Olympic athletes. Read more of such ironies and details about Indian Olympic squad about India’s Olympics team here.

Meanwhile, famous Chinese film director, Zhang Yimou, who directed Raise the Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers, has designed the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing. It took him three years to design it! The ceremony depicts 5,000 years of Chinese history in a 50-minute show. Chinese have also arranged for meteorologists who have been assigned the task to keep clouds at bay so that rains do not interrupt the events.

You can watch Olympics on Internet here at special Olympic channel at youtube.

Update: We (India) won a gold in 10m Air Rifle. 23-year-old Abhinav Bindra has done us proud with India’s first gold medal! yaaye! πŸ˜€

52 Responses to “Olympics: History, Facts and News (Updated)”

  1. 1 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 2:34 pm


    Interesting post. I love to gather trivia πŸ˜‰

    Norman Pritchard’s is a good case. Leads me to ask – what do the Olympics celebrate? National pride or athletic excellence?

    On a related note: You probably know that an American woman has taken Russian citizenship to play basketball for them in these Olympics. She does not want to sit these one out on qualification grounds.

    That gender test thing is the kind of news article that makes one want to laugh and cry at the same time. Why only women? I am not surprised the woman athlete refused to have more detailed searches later. This quote is of course priceless! “β€œIt’s very difficult to define what is a man and what is a woman at this point,” said Christine McGinn, a plastic surgeon who specializes in transgender medicine.” That said, the Olympics in my mind are tainted for many reasons…

    Here is my contribution to ‘related trivia’ list: Milkha Singh’s son Jeev Singh plays golf on the international circuit. Most commentators mention his father πŸ™‚

    Note: You may want to correct your tag. Most people may not be looking for “olymics” 😦

  2. 2 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    “these ones” … Sorry for the typo.

  3. 3 Suda August 8, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I knew few facts you shared from childhood πŸ˜€ My father once gave me a book where I read it. And I must say I was shocked to find that players played nude in front of all stadium. I think there was something about women not allowed to watch these games in very old days. I am not sure, may be its was in early days of Olympics when it was just started.
    Thanks for collective info.


  4. 4 ish August 8, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Wow, I didn’t know most of that stuff. I don’t think I knew any actually. Very nice post this. And yes, I did realize it’s 08-08-08 today. I got an over enthusiastic text message about that and about how we’re lucky to have seen this day but I replied saying “Big deal, pichle saal 07-07-07 bhi toh dekha tha”. I don’t think that guy is gonna text me again. πŸ˜›

  5. 5 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 2:41 pm


    Sorry to crowd out your comments space. This gender issue is as old as (wo)mankind.

    You have perhaps heard of RenΓ©e Richards who was born Richard Raskind and had a gender change operation in 1975. She was disallowed to play in the US Open as a woman. She brought a successful case in the New York Supreme Court who agreed with her stance.

  6. 6 Poonam Sharma August 8, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    @Shefaly: I like you crowding my comments space. πŸ™‚ To answer your question, its meant to be latter, but former has now taken over as objective. I think I vaguely head about this American woman being Russian participant.

    I felt it to be gross practice of sex identification. The comment is mocking and hilarious. The link I have included about Milkha Singh does talk bout his golfer son and his advise to his son. I was curious what he had to say about his defeat.

    Thanks for pointing out the typo in tag 😦 , corrected.

    And Renee Richards hard to miss in Oympic history.

    @Suda: Yes, we read about Norman, Milkha and P. T. Usha in childhood. πŸ™‚ I am not sure if women were banned to watch Ancient Olympics. I will have to check up.

    @Ish: yes, people do make big deal of these dates. Say will arrive again in century. πŸ™‚

  7. 7 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    @ Poonam: Thanks for letting me ‘crowd’ your comment space. πŸ™‚

    I forgot to add – I will be in Central London for a meeting and if I reach a bit early, I may be able to see the opening ceremony in Trafalgar Square on a giant screen. It will happen at 13:08 hrs our time because that will apparently be 08:08pm (they are clearly no fan of 24-hour clocks!). πŸ™‚

    If I miss it, then I shall have to watch it on Youtube or BBC iPlayer.

  8. 8 Poonam Sharma August 8, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    ha ha you are thanking me!

    Lucky you, for I would miss this one as I would be traveling to reach home safely in rains. 😦 I will catch on on youtube.

  9. 9 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    @ Poonam: But of course πŸ™‚

    Oh, that YouTube channel says this: “This channel is not available in your country.”

    In the UK, the BBC has the rights to broadcast. Everything will be broadcast and we can watch some events on the main channels, others on digital interactive channels accessible through our TV sets.

    What events are you most keen to see? My pilates teacher asked me to watch diving so I can understand one set of exercises better. Otherwise I like all athletics, gymnastics and water events. πŸ™‚

  10. 10 Poonam Sharma August 8, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    @Shefaly: I like watching athletics and water sports. I am not big fan of boxing. I don’t think I would be able to make out exercises while gazing at sports. πŸ™‚

    Yes, this youtube channel was for India, you could use this NBC channel at http://www.nbcolympics.com/. BBC at http://www.tvadio.com/tv-channel/BBC-Sport-Olympics.aspx appears to be unavailable at the moment.

  11. 11 sulz August 8, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    haha, the nude bit is interestingly funny!

  12. 12 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    @ Poonam:

    Thanks. The BBC has iPlayer which allows us to watch the games online too but it is not accessible outside the UK for a whole host of reasons.

    Well, she advised me when I was learning this very difficult exercise involving dorsal flexion of the neck followed by a spinal curl, standing up, which is used by divers. It is difficult to do for most because our back muscles and stronger hamstrings and thigh muscles take over causing us to bend our knees and prop our bottoms up in the air which divers do not do. Ergo the advice. πŸ™‚

    Enjoy the games as much as is possible. I think there will be much disruption if protesters have their way (and so far, they have had I think; two Brits put a Free Tibet flag on top of the birdcage…)

  13. 13 Poonam Sharma August 8, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    @sulz: πŸ™‚ well, you arrived here after a long time. How are you doing now?

    @Shefaly: You are a pro (easily when compared to me) when it comes to exercising it seems. I am shamed to tell you I have never really exercised well in my life. I need a guide to begin. Somehow that is hard to find, my schedule makes it even harder.

    Yes, net is awash with interviews and writing about security at games in China. I guess Tibet has been planning for this event for years. I will watch the games with bated breath. πŸ™‚

  14. 14 Nita August 8, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Hmm, fun reading it. πŸ™‚

  15. 15 dinu August 8, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    thanks for those links.. reading about Mikha Singh now .. hmm and you changed theme ? hihi good πŸ™‚

  16. 16 sulz August 8, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    actually i do stop by here every few days or so but haven’t felt like commenting. i mean, by the time i get here your post has tens of comments and they all said what i’d want to say, haha.

  17. 17 Shefaly August 8, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    @ Sulz: Haven’t you noticed tens of comments already being there doesn’t stop me? πŸ˜‰

  18. 18 Anshul August 8, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Sania had earlier vowed to win medal in olympics, later after few days she said…its tough to win medal in olympics.

    Anyway, I don’t think I would see olympics coz. of lack on interest. I somehow find winter olympics better.

  19. 19 Poonam Sharma August 8, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    @Nita: πŸ™‚

    @Dinu: I thought you were not around. I wrote a comment in your blog.

    @sulz: I do not mind repeated comments. πŸ™‚ And see what Shefaly’s saying. πŸ™‚ Don’t let anything stop you from commenting πŸ˜›

    @Anshul: Sania, if she brings gold. Great. But I think its gonna be hard. I m not expecting much from India. That reminds me of amusing anecdote: One guy blogged how shamed he feels that India brings no medals despite so much population. A commentator write, do something yourself rather than feeling shamed.

  20. 20 allirekha August 8, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Im nt at all interested in all these games 😦

    btw 08-08-08 we have Olympics n on 07 -07-07 ,the new 7 wonders were declared ..wt will be on 09 -09-09 πŸ˜€ ?

  21. 21 Anshul August 8, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    On 9-9-9, cats will has a cheeseburger….

    @Poonam: If an athlete is not performing he/she would be more ashamed of himself, so people don’t need to be….. Not everyone is ace of everything else so saying that ‘why don’t you go and do it’ doesn’t mean anything either.

  22. 23 sulz August 8, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    shefaly & poonam: haha, okay, i’ll keep that in mind next time!

  23. 24 Withering Willow August 8, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Interesting post! πŸ˜›

    I am not much of a sport enthusiast except moments of soccer or F1 and at times cricket. So, it was a good enlightening read for me telling me all about the the history and other compiled facts. Can see your research work to make it as informative as possible! πŸ˜€

    The state of sports other than cricket is so pathetic. Even the national game of India is not properly recognized. Such a pity, we are sending just 57 sportsperson for 302 events when the population of India is proliferating like bacterial culture! 😦

  24. 25 Withering Willow August 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    A welcome green theme in the monsoons! The older one got stretched for a little too long! πŸ™‚

  25. 26 vimal August 8, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    aaah..the olympics!! I remember watching the seoul and barcelona with my folks at home(when i was a kid, that is!) and believe me, I used to watch them religiously only becuz they didnt let me switch to a cartoon channel. I am not into sports and games at all, unless they let all the boardgames and videogames fall under this category !!!
    Though it says olympics olympics everywhere, I must admit, it was ur post that actually made me nostalgic. Thanks a lot, blogmate, for all the links. Blogosphere should be proud to have you as a blogger.
    (Too many sweet words, I better have a bittergourd now πŸ˜€ )

    Btw, the tag still says ‘olymics’ !!!

  26. 27 Reema August 8, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    i dont see the correction in the tag.
    Yes women were banned in Ancient Rome from watching Olympics or the Circus.
    Good links. For Milkha Singh’s defeat I think once u r on go dont ever look back. even in real life dont look back into ur past. dont pull back ur horses once u have taken the leap.

  27. 28 S August 8, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    WoW! this is some useful post for ppl like me who haven’t kept a track πŸ™‚ and good for me that am reading it now because I have switched the channel and am watching the live telecast πŸ™‚

    πŸ™‚ When we were kids we used to be so excited about Olympics though it is a different thing that the excitement used to end with disappointment πŸ™‚

    Hope u reached safely πŸ™‚

  28. 29 harshasrisri August 8, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    The links to the facts, Milka Singh’s memoirs, and brief Indian olympic medal prospects was highly informative. I too started wondering about the sorry state of affairs in a country where more than a thousand crores worth money was transacted during IPL! and if there is gonna be a commonwealth games in NewDelhi, i hope it comes out beyond everyone’s expectations.
    If at all India’s bid to host 2020 olympics succeeds, i am wondering about the containment of the crew who would bring about the starting ceremony! (i’ve just watched the starting ceremony of the Beijing games and was left open-mouthed!)

  29. 30 arvind August 9, 2008 at 1:58 am

    nice post and an informative one.. never knew about that nude thing πŸ˜› .
    the current state of Indian sports is not bright..
    a country of a billion people has just 57 Olympic contingents ..
    worse hockey team dint qualify..
    Isn’t all this a big shame to us ..
    did iu see the opening ceremony ..??
    that was awesome …

  30. 31 arvind August 9, 2008 at 1:59 am

    why is ur theme half white and half some other colour …
    IS this my browser problem or what ?? 😦

  31. 32 Manoj August 9, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Interesting tidbits! Will follow all your “olympic series” posts! sorta tresspassed to this blog from Arvind’s πŸ™‚

  32. 33 Animesh Raj August 10, 2008 at 10:47 am

    8 is considered lucky in China. So the auspicious date 08-08-08 was decided upon for the opening ceremony. Also the Olympics was thrown open at exactly 8.08 pm! Exactly 2008 drummers took part in the opening ceremony. And now the surprising news: Sania Mirza and Sunitha Rao, our tennis stars, marched with the Indian contingent in their track suits…! Reason given: they were too busy practising.

  33. 34 sakhi August 11, 2008 at 10:29 am

    A great read! πŸ™‚

  34. 35 Nikhil August 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Very interesting! And India just won a gold!! Yay!! πŸ˜€

  35. 36 Poonam Sharma August 11, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    @allirekha: That’s true! 07-07-07 was also eventful. I wonder what will be next year!

    @Anshul: πŸ™‚

    Yes, I too thought so but I dare put it up here lest locking my horns with such troll πŸ˜›

    @sulz: gotcha!

    @withering willow: As a matter of shame, I am only tennis, badminton and cricket enthusiast. But like several others, I revere athletics. More because somthing I could never achieve. I could not even get a medal in frog race at school! I missed being third even when so many people gave up. 😦

    Glad you liked theme, it doesn’t work well in FF2.

    @Vimal: he he..having a laugh imagining you watching Olympics in hope of having a glimpse of cartoon channel πŸ˜€

    I dnt knw what happens with me, I write comment it doesnt show, I correct it, it doesn’t show 😦

    hey, but we won gold. πŸ™‚

    @Reema: women were not even allowed to circus!

    Yes, not looking back is only way to overcome regret and have more achievements. πŸ™‚

    @S: Yes, I reached safely eventually. But missed the show, only watched in news replays. It is said to be awesome.

    Would you still be disappointed now that Abhinav Bindra won a gold medal?

    @harsha: (I have shortened your name πŸ™‚ ) yes, ceremony was great. I too hope commonwealth is worthwhile the huge amount of money government has invested in various infrastructure.

    @Arvind: I hope one day we host games with bigger, better ceremony. Yaye, at least we got one gold in shooting. πŸ™‚

    @Manoj: Welcome to Visceral Observations! Glad you could come by. I dont think I would write “series” post, sports is certainly not my forte but I like to be in know. πŸ™‚

    Keep visiting if only for other things! πŸ™‚

    @Animesh Raj: Yes, I read about 8 obsession with Chinese. I could not help but laugh at images that conjure up imagining our sport persons marching in track suits in grand ceremony. πŸ™‚ Well, who am I to say to them.

    @Sakhi: Thanks! πŸ™‚

    @Nikhil: yes, congratulations, we won a gold! πŸ™‚

  36. 37 Nids August 11, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Wow. interesting. didn’t know most of this. And your comment section just told me about the gold.

  37. 38 Joel August 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Interesting….! never knew so much about the olympics…well, I have a nice topic to boast in my coll tomorrow… πŸ˜€
    Thanks πŸ˜‰

  38. 39 Reema August 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Actually u know that time the famous Roman circus consisted of gory gladiator fights and lion & man fights. So I guess it was better women were not allowed πŸ™‚

  39. 40 withering willow August 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    This theme is working first class in FF 3.0.1… this is the version I am using.

  40. 41 Ashish August 11, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    It was Romans who banned Beijing Olympics as they believe it to be a pagan activity.
    You mean the “ancient olympics” right? They wouldn’t dream of holding Peking Olympics back then. πŸ˜›

    They all played in nude then! Only prudes were known to cover their organs.
    Hah! Nothing as good as weighlifting in the nude~! πŸ˜›

    This new theme looks kewl! πŸ™‚

  41. 43 Smita August 11, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    No am not disappointed at all πŸ˜€

    It was sheer luck that while waiting for train I was hooked on to my radio, they were playing a song and suddenly there were huge celebratory sounds and when they announced I was like wow!!!!!

  42. 44 Poonam Sharma August 12, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    @Nids: Welcome to Visceral Observations! If you liked it, keep visiting. πŸ™‚

    @Joel: he he Welcome! πŸ™‚

    @Reema: But now we watch our own versions of gladiators on television.

    @Willow: Thanks for reporting. It is problematic in FF2.

    @Ashish: That was a blunder, corrected. Thanks for pointing out. πŸ™‚ I always know I can expect honest theme comments from you.

    @Shefaly: This news is hilarious. Lengths Chinese would and can go..

    @Smita: Wow! So you got the news at first moment. πŸ™‚

  43. 45 Nova August 13, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Those little post-its are so cute πŸ˜€ Adorable πŸ˜€

  44. 47 Rashid Faridi August 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    very interesting and informative post. Congratulations to all indians for the FIRST INDIVIDUAL GOLD. there will be many in the future. Amen

  45. 48 Poonam Sharma August 18, 2008 at 9:52 am

    @Nova: Well, you can have them too as indicated in my next post πŸ™‚

    @Anshul: Yes, I have seen that cartoon. Ever since you told me about this blog, it has been in my reader. πŸ™‚

    @Rashid: Thanks! Congrats to ya as well1 πŸ™‚

  46. 49 Kaj October 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    It was Romans who banned Ancient Olympics as they believe it to be a pagan activity.

    Actually, it was Christians who banned it, not the Romans.

  47. 50 Lynna Vespa June 3, 2010 at 4:57 am

    In my opinion, it is actual, I will take part in discussion.

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