The Olympics are not just about spectacular performances, but moments that endure.
The creators of the Modern Games extolled the virtues of pure competition, and didn't think politics and subplots had a place in the Olympics. But those factors are a reality and they provide a backdrop to some of the most unforgettable moments the Games have produced. Here they are, perhaps the greatest examples of joy and sorrow, inspiration and controversy that the Olympics have seen:
1. 1968: Silent protest heard 'round the world
The social upheaval of the 1960s spread to the Mexico City Games, where some black athletes stayed away as part of a boycott. Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who trained out of San Jose State and were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, attended the Games and excelled. Smith won the 200 meters in a world record time of 19.83 seconds and Carlos took the bronze medal.
Afterward, the two climbed the medal podium in bare feet, wearing civil rights badges. Silver medalist Peter Norman, who was white, also wore the badge in support of his rivals. As the national anthem was played, Smith and Carlos both quietly bowed their heads and raised one black-gloved fist, symbolizing black strength and unity.
Outraged, the International Olympic committee demanded that the U.S. Olympic Committee remove Smith and Carlos from the Games, then threatened to ban the entire U.S.
team if the USOC didn't comply. The two were sent home to a generally hostile reception from Americans, although worldwide response was more favorable. Their non-violent gesture is now recognized by a statue on the SJSU campus.
2. 1936: Jesse Owens gets unexpected help
With war brewing in Europe, African American star Jesse Owens debunked the Nazi theory of Aryan superiority by winning four gold medals in front of Adolph Hitler at Berlin. He captured the 100 and 200 meters and the 400 relay, but needed help from German rival Luz Long after nearly failing to qualify for the long jump final.
Down to his final attempt in the prelinaries, Owens advanced after Long took off from well in front of the board to prevent another foul. Owens went on to set an Olympic record leap of 26 feet, 5 1/2 inches on his last attempt in the finals. Afterward, runnerup Long congratulated Owens in full view of Hitler.
"You can melt down all the medals and cups I have," Owens wrote later, "and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment."
3. 1972: The Munich massacre
Germany was determined to stage a flawless and peaceful Olympics 36 years after the the Berlin Games were dominated by the specter of Adolph Hitler. At Munich, the star was American swimmer Mark Spitz, who won a record seven gold medals, each in a world-record time.
But on the early morning of Sept. 5, eight Palestinians broke into the Olympic Village and invaded the rooms of Israeli athletes. Two Israelis were killed immediately and nine more taken hostage as the terrorists demanded the release of 200 prisoners held in Israel and safe passage home.
The terrorists made their way to a miliary airstrip, where West German snipers ambushed them. In the gunfire, all the remaining hostages were killed, along with five Palestinians and a policeman. The Games were held up for 34 hours, then resumed amid great controversy.
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