The Olympic Games has come to be known as the ultimate exhibition of athletic prowess, physical agility, and mental strength of the world’s best talents. It is the biggest celebration of athletic achievement on earth. Many participants train relentlessly for long hours every day for several years to win big at this world’s foremost sports competition. Sadly, the Olympics is not always about inspirational stories of sweat, hard work, and medals. Sometimes, the unexpected happens, and things get ugly, and quickly. Some athletes have been severely injured and damaged while others have been met with their sudden deaths at the Olympic Games.
As you may already know, this leading international sporting event enjoys massive media coverage. It is, therefore, not surprising that some of the brutal moments of the unfortunate tragedies have been captured on camera, frame by frame. In this list, we have handpicked the top ten craziest and most disturbing deaths ever recorded during the Olympic games.
Knud Enemark Jensen (Cyclist), 1960
The 1960 Rome Summer Olympic games witnessed the death of 20-years-old Danish cyclist, Knud Jensen. He was part of the Danish cycling team who had won silver earlier in the game. During a 100km race competition, the temperature was a blistering heat 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Rome. Many Olympians suffered from heat exhaustion resulting from the scorching sun — one of the Danish four team members already required medical attention due to sunstroke. However, Jensen and the other two teammates were allowed to continue in the race. They had to keep things together despite the heat because they didn’t want to risk being disqualified from the competition. They won silver.
Jensen began to feel dizzy and fainted. His other two team members tried desperately to prevent him from falling by catching onto his jersey, but he slumped and fractured his skull on the pavement. Unfortunately, he died in the hospital later that afternoon.
Francisco Lázaro (Marathon Runner), 1912
Portuguese Olympics marathon runner, Francisco Lazaro, collapsed and died after running 19 miles into his marathon race during the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Many thought his death was from severe dehydration due to the very high temperature that was recorded at the time of the marathon. But it wasn’t.
In those days when there was no sunscreen, Lázaro whose regular job was a carpenter had covered some parts of his body in a thin layer of wax to prevent sunburn and aid his speed. Unfortunately, this impaired his perspiration by trapping sweat in his body and causing a fatal body fluid electrolytic imbalance. He was reported to have said, “Either I win, or I die” before the race. Lázaro was the first athlete to die during the modern Olympic games.
Nodar Kumaritashvili (Luger), 2010
In the morning of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony day in Whistler, Canada, 21-year-old Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, suffered a fatal crash. During his last training run, he was propelled off course and crashed into a steel pole support next to the track at 150 miles per hour. He died instantly.
The video footage that showed Kumaritashvili lying lifeless after being thrown off his sled was captured on camera and released by the media. That caused a lot of controversies, casting a shadow over the whole Olympic Games opening ceremony proceeding.
Ignaz Stiefsohn (Glider), 1936
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics Summer games, Ignaz Stiefsohn, who was the leader of the Austrian glider team suffered a fatal crash during the gliding exhibition at Berlin-Staaken airfield on 3rd August. The tragedy resulted from a broken wing of the machine during an aerobatic flight. Ignaz was killed instantly.
On the following day (4th August), fourteen pilots from Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Germany and Austria participated in the demonstration.
Nicolae Berechet (Boxer), 1936
Also at the1936 Berlin Summer Olympics games, Romanian boxer Nicolae Berechet represented Romania as a featherweight at the age of 21. Unluckily for him, he lost the fight early on in the very first round to Evald Seeberg-Seepere from Estonia.
He never returned to Romania. Nicolae died a few days mysteriously after his defeat. Many believe that his death was as a result of injuries sustained during the fight, others claim it was due to blood poisoning also from the match. He was buried right there in Berlin.
Nicolas Bochatay (Speed Skier), 1992
The death of Nicolas Bochatay is by far one of the most disturbing deaths in the history of Olympic games. Bochatay was the Swiss Speed Skiing Champion of 1991 before his appearance in the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics in France. He could go at the speed of 130 MPH down the ski-slope and was considered one of the world’s finest. He placed 13 in the men’s race while at the games.
While practicing with a teammate and three other US skiers on the morning of the speed skiing finals, he was involved in a deadly accident. The group had already practiced three times, but on the last run, while catching air off a bump on the run, Bochatay collided head-on with a snow groomer vehicle and was killed instantly.
About 300 – 400 Students & Civilians Killed in Tlatelolco Massacre, 1968
Although this did not directly involve Olympians or athletes, Tlatelolco massacre is by far the worst tragedy surrounding the Olympic Games with between 300 to 400 people killed. Mexico City was about to host the 1968 Summer Olympic Games, and the government has spent a massive sum of $150 million getting ready for the event. That will be about $1 billion in the present day. The people weren’t happy about this government spending, mainly because Mexico was going through a financial hardship.
In the days leading to the Olympics, citizens took to the streets in peaceful protests to express their displeasure. Ten days to the Olympic Games, 10,000 students were staging a peaceful protest at the Plaza de las Tres cultures, but the Mexico government moves in to suppress them by using the military and police force who massacred an estimated 300 – 400 students and civilians while arresting more than 1,300 people.
Black September (Munich Massacre), 1972
It was Germany’s turn to host the Summer Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. During the second week of the games, a Palestinian terrorist faction called ‘Black September’ invaded the Israeli side of the Olympic Village where they held 11 Israel athletes hostage. Two of the men tried to fight back and were murdered instantly. The terrorists demanded the release of 234 inmates of the Israel prison. Israel declined to grant their demand and Germany offered them a considerable amount of money, but the terrorists were adamant.
A rescue operation was launched, but something went wrong along the line, and the remaining athletes were killed. A police officer and five terrorists also died in the process. The remaining terrorists were captured. The 1972 Olympic Games were suspended, and memorial service was held for the murdered athletes.
Centennial Olympic Park Bombing, 1996
Spectators and several of the athletes at the 1996 Olympic Games gathered at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia during the event. Just after midnight on 27 July 1996, a bomb went off at this park killing one spectator, Alice Hawthorne. 111 others were wounded. A Turkis media man, Melih Uzunyol who rushed to the scene to take photographs had a heart attack from that effort and died.
At first, Richard Jewell, the security guard at Centennial Olympic Park who discovered the bomb and helped clear out the crowd was investigated as the suspect. But it was a wrong accusation. The culprit was later found to be a certain religious extremist named Eric Rudolph. In had been motivated to force the cancellation of the Olympic Games to protest the government’s sanctioning of what he considered was “abortion on demand.” Rudolph had also detonated three pipe bombs. He was given four consecutive life sentences with no parole.
Sochi Street Dogs, 2014
In preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, there were many upgrades made to tidy up the city in readiness for the arrival of athletes and fans. Sadly, one of this cleanups involved the nasty mass slaughtering of the stray Sochi dogs. The Organizers hired a pest control company to get rid of the dogs because they believe the animals were a nuisance. Alexei Sorokin, director general of Basya Services, the company contracted to put down the dogs described the animals as ‘biological trash.’ He also claimed that Sochi had a ‘rabies’ problem.
Thousands of dogs were getting killed until a billionaire dog lover, Oleg Deripaska came to the rescue. Mr. Deripaska decided to fund a dog shelter up in the hills above Sochi, where the remaining animals were kept.