The Quick 8: 8 Other Olympic Tragedies

filed under: q10
Image credit: 

You've no doubt heard about the terrible luge accident that took place before the Olympics' opening ceremony this weekend "“ while on a training run, Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili was thrown off his luge and struck a support beam at about 89 mph. Sadly, his death isn't the first time tragedy has struck the Olympics. Here are eight other times the Olympic Games have been marred by death.

francisco1. Francisco Lazaro (pictured) was the first fatality of the modern Olympic Games. During the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Lazaro thought it would help his performance in the marathon if he used wax on his body to curb his sweating. As we know now, the body needs to sweat when it exercises to cool itself down. Without the ability to do so, Lazaro's body overheated. He ended up collapsing with a temperature of nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit and died the following morning.

2. During the 1960 Summer Games in Rome, a Danish cyclist named Knud Enemark Jensen died after a bad wreck. During the autopsy, a large amount of amphetamines were found in his system. ESPN cites his cause of death as a "combination of doping and exposure."

3. British luge racer Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki died under circumstances eerily similar to that of Nodar Kumaritashvili: his luge crashed during a training run during the 1964 Innsbruck, Austria, Winter Olympics.

4. The 1964 Games were rife with tragedy, as a downhill skier also died that year. Australian Ross Milne was doing a practice run on the course when he ran into a tree. His manager said that Milne was having trouble navigating the course due to how other contestants were congregating on it. He was forced to slow down on a spot that wasn't meant for doing so and ended up being thrown off course, and, ultimately, into the tree.

5. He may not have been an Olympian, but Dr. Jorg Oberhammer was at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games to help treat the Austrian team. Oberhammer, an orthopaedic surgeon, was skiing at the bottom of the hill when he collided with another skier and was knocked into the tracks of a snow-grooming machine. He was crushed and died instantly. Two Swiss competitors witnessed the whole thing "“ one of them withdrew from his event because he was so badly shaken; the other ended up taking the bronze.

6. The snow grooming machines can be quite deadly "“ one claimed a life at the 1992 Albertville, France, Olympics as well. Speed skier Nicolas Bochatay of Switzerland was warming up on a public slope with a teammate when he lost control and crashed into one of the machines. He died shortly thereafter.

7. Thousands of spectators were gathered to watch a concert during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta when security guard Richard Jewell discovered a bag containing three pipe bombs surrounded by nails. Although it was found in time to get many of the spectators to safety, there were two fatalities when the bomb detonated before the bomb squad could deactivate it: Alice Hawthorne, a Georgia native who was struck in the head with one of the nails; and a Turkish cameraman named Melih Uzunyol, who suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to run. More than 100 others were injured.

munich8. The worst incident in Olympic history occurred during the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, when 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were taken hostage by a terrorist group called Black September. All 11 Israelis were killed, in addition to a West German police officer and five of the eight terrorists.

More from mental_floss...

February 15, 2010 - 12:08pm
submit to reddit