The 1956 Melbourne Games are known for hosting one of the most infamous events in Olympic history.
The Hungarian water polo team was considered to be the best in the world. While training for the upcoming Summer Games in Melbourne an uprising against the Soviet rule began in Hungary. The team was moved to Czechoslovakia to complete their training away from the turmoil. When they finally arrived in Australia they learned that Russian troops and tanks rolled into Budapest and had brutally dealt with the uprisers. Many of the players realized it would be unlikely they would return back to Hungary at the conclusion of the Olympics.
Even with a war going on in their home country Hungary still decided to complete. They won their the opening rounds of the games which meant the team would play the Soviet team in the semi finals.
The Hungary-Russian water polo match has recently been compared by some media outlets to the recent Georgia-Russia beach volleyball match.
Comparing the volleyball contest to what the Hungarians went through it a bit of a joke by the media. Water polo is a contact sport for one. Also, the two Georgian volleyballers were born and raised in Brazil and have only been to Georgia twice. The volleyball match was something completely different than what happened in 1956.
The Hungarian water polo team thought this game would be a small way for them to regain some pride for their fellow countrymen:
"We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for our whole country" saidThe was a physical affair right from the opening minutes with verbal barbs, kicks and punches being traded between the two teams. Hungarian Dezso Gyarmarti caught a Russian with a sucker punch, This helped to get the mostly Hungarian expatriate crowd into a frenzy.
Hungarian Ervin Zádor after the match
With only a few minutes left, and Hungary winning 4-0, Russian Valentin Prokopov smashed Zador in the face with a massive right hook. The punch left a deep gash above his eye. When the crowd saw their star player with blood flowing down his face they nearly rioted. Zagor was forced to leave the game due to the injury causing many spectators to jump onto the pool deck and shout abuse and spit at the Russians.
Police calmed the crowd and with one minute remaining the game was called and Hungary was awarded the win.
Pictures of Zador leaving the pool with blood trickling down his face graced the sports pages of papers around the world. The media dubbed it the “Blood in the Water” match, although reports that the water turned a blood colour were an over-exaggeration.
Hungary won the gold medal match against Yugoslavia 2-1 to win their fourth Olympic Gold. After the Olympics, half of team defected to escape the turmoil that that been occuring in their homeland.
In 2006, the epic match had been made into a documentary. Freedom’s Fury that was produced by Lucy Liu and Quentin Tarantino and narrated by Mark Spitz. Here's the trailer:
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