Friday, August 22, 2008

Bizarre Olympic Moment - Day 14

Each day of the 2008 Olympics we're going to find a bizarre clip or story from a past Summer Olympics. Today we'll look at Italian Marathon Runner Dorando Pietri.

In 1896, at the first modern games in Athens, the showcase event was the marathon. The event was created to commemerate a historic moment in Greek history. In the 5th century BC, a man named Phidippides ran 39km from the battlefield back to Athens to declare victory and then dropped dead.

At the 1908 Olympics in London the marathon was extended to it's current length of 26 miles and 385 yards. The reason for the extension? The English wanted the race to start at Windsor Castle and end at White City Stadium which were 26 miles apart. The additional 385 yards was needed so the race would finish right in front of the King.

The favourite of the race, Canadian Tom Longboat, collapsed in the July heat at about the 20 mile mark. South African Charles Hefferon took the led and held it until he accepted a glass of victory champagne from a spectator. The alcohol made him sick and he was overtaken by Italian Dorando Pietri, a pastry chef by trade.

Pietri was in front at the 26 mile mark and was the first to enter the stadium. Four years ago, the race would have ended here but this year Pietri still had 385 yards to go. The Italian was severly dehydrated and started to head in the wrong direction until officials pointed him the right way. In the last 200 yards he collasped five times until, with the urging of the crowds, officials helped Pietri up and assisted him across the finish line.

Pietri won the gold but the American team lodged a protest. Pietri was eventually disqualifed for receiving illegal assistance and American Johnny Hayes was awarded the gold.

Pietri spent several days in hospital and nearly died. He became an international star and was awarded a silver cup by Princess Alexandra in honour of his achievement.

Take a look at the 16 most bizarre Olympic moments in history:

Day 1 - Eric "The Eel" Moussambani
Day 2 - Betty Robinson
Day 3 - Sally Robbins
Day 4 - Abebe Bilkila
Day 5 - 1972 USA Basketball team
Day 6 - Bobby Pearce
Day 7 - Byun Jong-il
Day 8 - Stella Walsh
Day 9 - Spanish Paralympic Basketball Team
Day 10 - Ingeborg Marx
Day 11 - Vanderlei de Lima
Day 12 - Hans-Jurgen Todt
Day 13 - Liu Changchun
Day 14 - Dorando Pietri
Day 15 - 1956 Hungarian Water Polo Team
Day 16 - 1960 Tunisian Modern Pentathlon Team

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