The 8 Forgotten Olympic Games
With all the controversy swirling around the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi opening this Friday (from state-sanctioned homophobia to seriously deficient hotels), it's hard to imagine the Games ever being lost to history. Yet with 52 games in the Modern era, it's to be expected that some would fade from collective consciousness. In particular, eight sets of games have become harder to recall as the years go on.
1896 Summer Olympic Games: Athens, Greece
Where was the first Olympics of the modern era held? It seems like it should be an obvious answer — Greece was where the ancient Olympiad took place, so of course it would be in Athens. Yet for some reason, maybe because the 2004 Summer Games were also held in Athens, it’s become a forgettable Games, if not aesthetically pleasing.
1904 Summer Olympic Games: St. Louis, Mo.
The Olympic Games have been held in the U.S. eight times in seven different locations. Yet as the first of the American-set Games, St. Louis manages to slip from memory easily. Even at the time, the Games were lost in the mix: Because the World’s Fair was celebrating the Louisiana Purchase concurrently, the Olympics took a backseat. Yet at least one strange story has come from this Games: runner Thomas Hicks’ near-death experience in his event.
1932 Summer Olympic Games: Los Angeles
Did you remember LA hosted the Olympics? Did you remember they hosted them twice? The first LA Games, held during the Great Depression, brought in the worst attendance for the Olympic Games since 1904; even President Herbert Hoover skipped out. Thanks to limited and slow transportation options of the time, Los Angeles was a world away from most European and Asian nations, though 100,000 people did show up to the Opening Ceremony at the beautiful Memorial Coliseum. The second Games, in 1984, did much better — they’re considered the most financially successful modern Olympic Games.
1956 Summer Olympic Games: Melbourne, Australia (and Stockholm)
These Summer Games were hosted down under — except for those competing in equestrian events. Thanks to regulations from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service that would have required horses to be quarantined, equine competitions had to be held in Sweden's capital instead. The bizarre and not-since-repeated split makes this Games a bit more obscure.
1976 Winter Olympic Games: Innsbruck, Austria
Repeat Olympics locations are rare — the exclusive club includes Athens, Los Angeles and, bizarrely, Innsbruck, Austria. The Tyrolean city had hosted the Games only 12 years prior and were something of a last resort for the ‘76 Games. Denver was the original location, but the city dropped out after a massive increase in costs. Innsbruck was chosen as an alternative to Salt Lake City, which had offered itself up but was passed over by a now America-wary International Olympic Committee. The controversy over Denver pulling out is more memorable today than the final location.
1984 Winter Olympic Games: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Memories of the event aren’t the only facet of the Sarajevo Games that have been lost to time — the country it was held in no longer exists, Yugoslavia having been dissolved into five different countries not even a decade after the Games. The quick-to-be-dismantled host country, and competition with the more successful L.A. Summer Games held that year, affected the notability of this particular Olympics — plus, as the Olympics’ official site notes, the games were free of major controversy. Good news is no news, in this case.
1992 Winter Olympic Games: Albertville, France
Albertville was the victim of unfortunate timing. It was the last Winter Games to be held in the same year as the summer equivalent — the more historically significant Barcelona Games, which was essentially the final success for the Soviet Union. It was also overshadowed by the Lillehammer Winter Games just two years later, notable for having a record number of countries sending athletes.
2006 Winter Olympic Games: Torino, Italy
Despite providing a major boost for Torino’s tourism, the 2006 Games are more likely to live on in infamy for several major scandals. There were major doping allegations, and the Games cost far more than expected. Americans were reported to care little about this Olympics. The most notable thing about Torino might have been American skier Bode Miller’s utter collapse under the weight of sky-high expectations — and for that to be the most notable event speaks volumes.