The spectators are the heart and soul of every Olympic Games. They are also an indispensable part of sport: without them it would be nothing but physical exercise. Essentially, it is the holding of competitions that distinguishes sport from physical exercise.But without spectators, what meaning would these competitions have?
- Photo: Chamonix — the host city of the I Winter Games in 1924. Source: pointsdactu.org
The spectators set a record.
Based on statistical data, at the first ever Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, there were only...two thousand spectators, whilst the Vancouver Games in 2010 attracted over a million! Just think about that for a second: in less than a hundred years, the number of people attending the sporting events of the White Olympics has increased by 500 times'! There are probably no other sporting events in the world that can boast of such record growth in visitor numbers.Incidentally, the winter sport which enjoys the greatest popularity, and consequently boasts the highest attendances, is ice hockey: crowds of over 17,000 filled the stands at every ice hockey match during the Vancouver Olympics.
We could hardly expect anything less of Canada, in fact: ice hockey has long been the "national" sport of this nation, uniting the country around its national team.
- Photo: Irish priest Cornelius Horan knocks down the Brazilian marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima to the ground. Source: yahoofs.com
A marathon runner's gold-medal hopes dashed by a priest.
Sometimes spectators are even capable of altering the final results of sporting events. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, for example, a man in the crowd jumped out into the road during the marathon, and knocked the leading athlete to the ground. Police and spectators detained the troublemaker, and helped the athlete to his feet. In the end, the athlete carried on running and finished third. As for the troublemaker, to everyone's surprise he turned out to be an Irish priest, who had decided to draw attention to himself in this unusual way.
- Photo: Fred Lorz, wearing number 31, and Thomas Hicks, the official winner of the event, wearing number 20. Source: blogspot.com, olympic.org
Hitching a ride in pursuit of a medal.
At the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, the marathon was seen as the most prestigious event, and the marathon runners were therefore very much in the spotlight. First to cross the finish-line was the American Fred Lorz, some distance ahead of his nearest rivals. However, it was later revealed that Lorz's victory had not been achieved in an entirely fair manner: after completing the first third of the course, his legs had started to cramp up, and he had literally come to a standstill in the road. It was at that point that a spectator, who had been following the athletes in his car, came to his aid. The spectator gave Lorz a ride almost as far as the finish line, and then dropped him off, leaving him to cover the remaining eight kilometers to the stadium on his own. Sure enough, Lorz made it to the stadium. Unfortunately for him, though, an official observer had witnessed the incident with the car, and alerted the authorities to this foul-play.
Additional info: br> Lorz was stripped of his medal, which ended up being awarded to the American Thomas Hicks. It's worth noting though that Hicks had also been given a helping hand, as it later transpired: some 10 kilometers from the finish-line, he had begun to feel unwell, and his coach Charles Luke had had to give him an injection to help him reach the stadium.