British Olympic officials have come under fire for instituting a militarized no-fly zone over London for the duration of this year’s Olympic Games. But given the sordid history of planes at the Olympics, their actions can be seen as nothing other than totally necessary. Here are five particularly heinous examples of plane related shenanigans at past Olympiads.
Greece, 1896: Unknown Greek inventor Kostas Papadopalous announced to the world that he had invented the first motogyro that could vertically accelerate giving man the ability to fly for the first time. Briefly the pride of Greece, he was asked to demonstrate his invention at the First Modern Olympics. Unfortunately, Kostas turned out to be a seven year old boy, and his invention was nothing more than a propellor hat. When Kostas broke both of his legs after jumping off of the Parthenon, the Greek aerospace industry was irrevocably set back.
Antwerp, 1920: Skywriting, a technique of using planes to write messages in the sky had been perfected a year earlier in the United Kingdom by Johnford “Jack” Smithstone. Deciding to bring his invention to the masses, Jack skywrote the Olympic rings above the opening ceremony of the games in Antwerp. Unfortunately, he had not received permission from the IOC to use the rings in any commercial form, and was sued for all he was worth. He died in Belgian debtors’ prison three years later of Tuberculosis.
London, 1948: One of the stars of the London games was Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen. Nicknamed “The Flying Housewife” the 30-year old mother of three children won four gold medals in athletics. Less well remembered was Finnish Silver Medalist, Discus Thrower Jikka Hapkopen “The Flying Househusband.” He had earned his nickname years prior to the games when, in a fit of rage, he picked up his first-born son Spikka and threw him 36 meters, earning both the title of Worlds Greatest Human Tosser, and a six month spell in Finnish prison.
Tokyo, 1964: US-Japanese relations reached their post-war nadir when Senate Minority Leader, and US Olympic Envoy Everett Dirksen, Republican from Illinois, responded to a deep bow by Japanese Emperor Hirohoto by asking him if, “that was a prelude to some kamikaze bullshit.” When the Emperor calmly suggested that his questions was out of line, and that the Great War had caused much suffering for all involved parties, Senator Dirksen started the first ever, “U-S-A” chant at an Olympic Games before being forcibly removed from the Olympic Stadium.
Moscow, 1980: Touring to support their debut major label release, Boy, U2 came to Moscow to perform in the Olympic Village in spite of the Western boycott of the games, citing their love of the Olympic spirit. However, KGB forces in St. Petersburg, wary of another U2 related intelligence breach, detained the band for the duration of the games. Although this disrupted their tour, it was during this detention that U2 frontman Bono and eventual Russian Premier Vladimir Putin became close friends, with Putin eventually lending guest vocals to U2’s 1997 album Pop.