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Jesse Lenz
Jesse Lenz

9 Bizarre Weapons That Failed Spectacularly

Jesse Lenz
Jesse Lenz

In 2011, the U.S. government spent $76 billion on military research and development. As history has shown, sometimes that investment pays off. And sometimes you end up running from a flaming pig.

1. Roast Pork

War elephants were the tanks of their time. Their tough hides were nearly impervious to arrows, and their giant size made them perfect for trampling through enemy lines. In 331 BCE, Alexander the Great was so nervous about the Persian army’s pachyderms that he made a sacrifice to the God of Fear the night before battle. The mighty elephants’ reputation only grew when, in 218 BCE, Hannibal set out to storm Rome with an armada of ferocious beasts. The “elephantry” seemed invincible.

If elephants were the world’s first tanks, flaming pigs—slathered in tar, lit on fire, and set loose to wreak havoc—were the world’s first anti-tank missiles. According to Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, the weapon worked because “elephants are scared by the smallest squeal of the hog.”

When flaming pigs succeeded, they were brilliant. In 266 BCE, the Greek city of Megara fended off the Macedonian conqueror Antigonus II Gonatas using pigs doused in resin. Antigonus’s elephants fled in terror from the bacon brigade. Most battles, however, highlighted the serious drawbacks of tactical barbecue. Since the lifespan of flaming pigs is short, their range was well under 400 feet. That meant the enemy pretty much had to be on top of you before the hogs would have any effect. The porcine missiles also lacked a guidance system, which made them woefully inaccurate. Even when directed toward enemy lines, they often ran wherever they pleased, starting fires on their own side.

2. The Iceberg Navy

During World War II, aircraft carriers were in short supply. So were steel and aluminum, the main materials needed to build the gargantuan ships. As the Allies scrounged to build vessels, they were also hunting for fresh ideas. So when Geoffrey Pyke, a plucky British inventor, proposed a scheme to build carriers out of ice, the British government jumped on board.

Pyke’s concept was to construct the vessels using pykrete—a stronger-than-ice mixture of 86 percent water and 14 percent wood pulp. But it wasn’t until construction began on a 1,000-ton model in Canada that engineers encountered the problem of “plastic flow.” In layman’s terms, the ship started to melt, which caused it to sag under its own weight unless kept at a crisp 3°F. The designers attempted to sidestep the issue by rigging the boat with a complex refrigeration system and reinforcements consisting of 10,000 tons of steel—the very resource they’d been trying to avoid using in the first place.

After almost a year of working and reworking the concept, Britain’s Royal Navy finally learned the same hard lesson most of us learned with our first popsicles and they ditched the project. The boat was allowed to sink to the bottom of Patricia Lake and do what ice does best: melt.

3. The $40 Million Sunburn

In 2010, the U.S. military deployed a weapon straight out of a comic book: a heat ray that could stop bad guys in their tracks! Known as the Active Denial System, the satellite-dish–sized device blasted extremely high-frequency waves that made targets feel unbearably toasty.

But after running up a $40 million tab over a decade of research, the military recalled the weapon after about a month. Why the quick flip-flop?

The government never made an official statement on the matter, but it seems the heat ray wasn’t such a hot idea. Far from delivering a paralyzing blast, the ray unleashed all the pain of a bad sunburn. And while that’s fine for controlling mildly unruly crowds, you don’t want to go into battle with a weapon that can be defeated by a good coat of SPF-30.

4. Killer Drum Solo

When Hitler erected a 7-foot-thick concrete wall along the European coastline, Britain’s Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapon Development drew the task of finding a way to burst through. Its solution: the Great Panjandrum—two 10-foot-tall wheels linked by a drum carrying 4,000 pounds of explosives. Rockets attached to the wheel rims were meant to propel the payload forward at 60 miles per hour, crashing the great drum past everything until it hit the wall.

The only problem? If some of the rockets failed—which they did with alarming regularity—the Panjandrum careened off course. When the fireworks on the right wheel failed during its first test run in 1943, the designers addressed the glitch as only weapons engineers can: by attaching more rockets.

Sadly, some problems can’t be solved with extra rockets. A documentary crew recorded what would be Panjandrum’s final road test and nearly lost a filmmaker in the process. As one observer reported, “[A] clamp gave: first one, then two more rockets broke free: Panjandrum began to lurch ominously.

It hit a line of small craters in the sand and began to turn to starboard, careening towards [the filmmaker], who, viewing events through a telescopic lens, misjudged the distance and continued filming. Hearing the approaching roar he looked up from his viewfinder to see Panjandrum, shedding live rockets in all directions, heading straight for him.”

The cameraman managed to emerge unscathed, but the Panjandrum did not, meeting an early retirement before it ever rolled into battle.

5. Holy Bat Bomb!

During World War II, an oral surgeon named Lytle Adams contacted the White House with a novel idea. Bats could be the Allies’ new secret weapons!

Troops could strap little bombs to bats, airdrop them into Axis strongholds, and watch the destruction from a safe distance. Strangely, the idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Bats can carry more than their own weight in flight. They’re also plentiful and cheap; four caves in Texas alone housed millions of the critters.

Franklin Roosevelt was enamored of the concept, and in 1942, he greenlit the project. He also convinced Adams to abandon dentistry to pitch in with the effort. By 1943, Adams and the Army had recruited thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats for the job, while Louis Fieser, the inventor of napalm, designed their one-ounce detonating packs. According to plans, a carrier with 26 stacked trays—each containing 40 little bat homes—would parachute into the industrial cities of Japan’s Osaka Bay. The bats would then fly off and wedge themselves into the nooks and crannies of buildings to sleep off their jet lag—at least until a timer detonated their packs.

Only the bats never got to carry out their kamikaze-style mission. During one test run in Carlsbad, N.M., the bats got loose, roosted under a fuel tank, and incinerated the facility. Fed up with bats, the Army handed the hot potato project to the Navy, which foisted it on the Marines. Eventually, the Marines pulled off a successful test on a mock Japanese village in Utah.

Good news for bats, though: In the time it had taken to perfect the bat explosives, the military had designed a slightly more efficient and predictable weapon: the atomic bomb.

6. Russia Goes Full Circle

Boats share the same basic design for a reason. Unfortunately, nobody bothered telling that to the Imperial Russian shipwrights who in 1874 unveiled a proudly distinct vessel they called Novgorod. In theory, the ship’s circular design—just over 100 feet in diameter—provided a stable platform for large guns, making it the perfect defender for the Russian coast.

In practice, the Novgorod was a disaster, a fact that became abundantly clear as it floated into the Danube to take part in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Since the ship’s hull wasn’t streamlined, faster boats had to tow the floating bucket into battle. Russia was in no hurry to get the Novgorod in the mix, though. The circular design had clear limitations in combat: The odd shape meant that each time its cannons fired, recoil spun the vessel like a top. In short, it was a slow, cumbersome ship that couldn’t really fire its guns. After enduring much snickering from the Turks, the Russians decided to keep the Novgorod tied up at port, finally relegating it to the scrapyard in 1912.

7. The Puke Ray

Many weapons have the unfortunate side effect of being lethal, so defense agencies are always on the lookout for more humane ways to stun the enemy. In 2007, the military thought it had found it in the “sick stick”: a flashlight that unleashed a kaleidoscopic pulse that caused vertigo, nausea, and hurling.

The idea for the weapon dates all the way back to the 1950s, when helicopter pilots started mysteriously crashing. Investigators determined that the frequency of choppy flashes of sunlight shining through a chopper’s spinning blades caused dizziness and disorientation. Tinted glass and helmet visors solved the pilots’ problems, but the U.S. military started wondering whether it could use the effect to its advantage.

While the sick stick gets two thumbs up for twisted creativity, the weapon has major flaws. First, a target has to look directly at the light to feel the effects—why not just turn and run? Or wear shades? Also, the gadget’s unwieldy size—15 inches long, 4 inches wide—made it cumbersome in the field.

A Department of Homeland Security newsletter criticized the sick stick, deeming it “more transportable than portable.” Before long, the military abandoned the $800,000 project.

But the idea didn’t die there. In 2009, a pair of hardware hackers slapped together their own version for $250 using a flashlight from Sears, $3 LEDs, a nine-volt battery, and a heat sink from a computer processor—enough to make the government queasy.

8. The Führer Gets an Air Rifle

During World War II, Hitler’s Third Reich was hell-bent on shooting down Allied planes. But conventional weapons weren’t the only defense. A factory near Stuttgart built a massive air cannon—a 3-foot-diameter, 35-foot-long cast-iron tube packed with an explosive mixture of hydrogen and ammonia that, upon detonation, would eject a “shell” of compressed air. The Nazis hoped these shells would create whirlwinds to swat Allied planes out of the sky.

In trials, the WindKanone was a destructive force. The weapon shattered wooden planks from 650 feet away. Still, there’s a big difference between breaking stationary lumber and nailing airborne targets. Even when the gusts nailed planes flying as low as 500 feet, pilots were barely thrown off course. Never ones to waste creative energy, the Nazis redeployed the air cannon as an anti-infantry weapon. But it was hopeless in the field as well—its gargantuan size made it an easy target for bombs. After a few disastrous outings, the WindKanone sat unused, gathering rust at a testing facility until confused American troops stumbled across it in April 1945.

9. Popping the War Balloons

In 1944, Japanese troops set 9,000 balloons adrift over the Pacific. Beneath each of the 33-foot-diameter spheres dangled a 35-pound high-explosive bomb and eight 15-pound firebombs. After spending three days floating the jet stream, the balloons were to jettison their loads over the continental U.S., sparking forest fires and generating mayhem.

Lucky for us, the wind is a fickle ally. Only 389 of these Fu-Gos or “fire balloons” made it to the States, and even fewer exploded. One landed in Nevada, only to be discovered by cowboys and turned into a hay tarp. Two landed back in Japan. Only one bomb claimed any American casualties, and even that was more of a tragic debacle than a crushing military victory.

Five kids and their pregnant Sunday-school teacher stumbled upon the balloon in the Oregon woods—hardly the sort of PR coup that would buoy Japanese spirits. Dismayed by the poor results, the Japanese scrapped balloon bombs in 1945. [More on the balloon bombs: In 1945 a Japanese Bomb Exploded in Oregon, Killing Six.]

Illustrations by Jesse Lenz. This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine.

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11 Secrets of Bodyguards
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Tullio M. Puglia, Getty Images

When CEOs, celebrities, and the extremely wealthy need personal protection, they call in men and women with a particular set of skills. Bodyguards provide a physical barrier against anyone wishing their clients harm, but there’s a lot more to the job—and a lot that people misunderstand about the profession. To get a better idea of what it takes to protect others, Mental Floss spoke with several veteran security experts. Here’s what they told us about being in the business of guaranteeing safety.

1. BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER.

When working crowd control or trying to corral legions of screaming teenagers, having a massive physical presence comes in handy. But not all "close protection specialists" need to be the size of a professional wrestler. “It really depends on the client,” says Anton Kalaydjian, the founder of Guardian Professional Security in Florida and former head of security for 50 Cent. “It’s kind of like shopping for a car. Sometimes they want a big SUV and sometimes they want something that doesn’t stick out at all. There’s a need for a regular-looking guy in clothes without an earpiece, not a monster.”

2. GUNS (AND FISTS) ARE PRETTY MUCH USELESS.

An armed bodyguard pulls a gun out of a holster
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Depending on the environment—protecting a musician at a concert is different from transporting the reviled CEO of a pharmaceutical company—bodyguards may or may not come armed. According to Kent Moyer, president and CEO of World Protection Group and a former bodyguard for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, resorting to gunplay means the security expert has pretty much already failed. “People don’t understand this is not a business where we fight or draw guns,” Moyer says. “We’re trained to cover and evacuate and get out of harm’s way. The goal is no use of force.” If a guard needs to draw a gun to respond to a gun, Moyer says he’s already behind. “If I fight, I failed. If I draw a gun, I failed.”

3. SOMETIMES THEY’RE HIRED TO PROTECT EMPLOYERS FROM EMPLOYEES.

A security guard stands by a door
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Workplace violence has raised red flags for companies who fear retribution during layoffs. Alan Schissel, a former New York City police sergeant and founder of Integrated Security, says he dispatches guards for what he calls “hostile work termination” appointments. “We get a lot of requests to provide armed security in a discreet manner while somebody is being fired,” he says. “They want to be sure the individual doesn’t come back and retaliate.”

4. SOME OF THEM LOVE TMZ.

For protection specialists who take on celebrity clients, news and gossip site TMZ.com can prove to be a valuable resource. “I love TMZ,” Moyer says. “It’s a treasure trove for me to see who has problems with bodyguards or who got arrested.” Such news is great for client leads. Moyer also thinks the site’s highly organized squad of photographers can be a good training scenario for protection drills. “You can look at paparazzi as a threat, even though they’re not, and think about how you’d navigate it.” Plus, having cameras at a location before a celebrity shows up can sometimes highlight information leaks in their operation: If photographers have advance notice, Moyer says, then security needs to be tightened up.

5. THEY DON’T LIVE THE LIFE YOU THINK THEY DO.

A bodyguard stands next to a client
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Because guards are often seen within arm’s reach of a celebrity, some think they must be having the same experiences. Not so. “A big misconception is that we’re living the same life as celebrities do,” Kalaydjian says. “Yes, we’re on a private jet sometimes, but we’re not enjoying the amenities. We might live in their house, but we’re not enjoying their pool. You stay to yourself, make your rounds.” Guards that get wrapped up in a fast-paced lifestyle don’t tend to last long, he says.

6. SOMETIMES THEY’RE JUST THERE FOR SHOW.

For some, being surrounded by a squad of serious-looking people isn’t a matter of necessity. It’s a measure of status on the level of an expensive watch or a fast car. Firms will sometimes get calls from people looking for a way to get noticed by hiring a fleet of guards when there's no threat involved. “It’s a luxury amenity,” Schissel says. “It’s more of a ‘Look at me, look at them’ thing,” agrees Moyer. “There’s no actual threat. It’s about the show. I turn those down. We do real protection.”

7. THEY CAN MAKE THEIR CLIENT'S DAY MORE EFFICIENT.

A bodyguard escorts a client through a group of photographers
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Because guards will scope out destinations in advance, they often know exactly how to enter and exit locations without fumbling for directions or dealing with site security. That’s why, according to Moyer, CEOs and celebrities can actually get more done during a work day. “If I’m taking you to Warner Bros., I know which gate to go in, I’ve got credentials ahead of time, and I know where the bathrooms are.” Doing more in a day means more money—which means a return on the security investment.

8. “BUDDYGUARDS” ARE A PROBLEM.

When evaluating whether or not to take on a new employee, Kalaydjian weeds out anyone looking to share in a client’s fame. “I’ve seen guys doing things they shouldn’t,” he says. “They’re doing it to be seen.” Bodyguards posting pictures of themselves with clients on social media is a career-killer: No one in the industry will take a “buddyguard” seriously. Kalaydjian recalls the one time he smirked during a 12-year-stint guarding the same client, something so rare his employer commented on it. “It’s just not the side you portray on duty.”

9. SOCIAL MEDIA MAKES THEIR JOB HARDER.

A bodyguard stands next to a client
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High-profile celebrities maintain their visibility by engaging their social media users, which often means posting about their travels and events. For fans, it can provide an interesting perspective into their routine. For someone wishing them harm, it’s a road map. “Sometimes they won’t even tell me, and I’ll see on Snapchat they’ll be at a mall at 2 p.m.,” Kalaydjian says. “I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

10. NOT EVERY CELEBRITY IS PAYING FOR THEIR OWN PROTECTION.

The next time you see a performer surrounded by looming personal protection staff, don’t assume he or she is footing the bill. “A lot of celebrities can’t afford full-time protection,” Moyer says, referring to the around-the-clock supervision his agency and others provide. “Sometimes, it’s the movie or TV show they’re doing that’s paying for it. Once the show is over, they no longer have it, or start getting the minimum.”

11. THEY DON’T LIKE BEING CALLED “BODYGUARDS.”

A bodyguard puts his hand up to the camera
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Few bodyguards will actually refer to themselves as bodyguards. Moyer prefers executive protection agents, because, he says, bodyguard tends to carry a negative connotation of big, unskilled men. “There is a big group of dysfunctional people with no formal training who should not be in the industry,” he says. Sometimes, a former childhood friend can become “security,” a role they’re not likely to be qualified for. Moyer and other firms have specialized training courses, with Moyer's taking cues from Secret Service protocols. But Moyer also cautions that agencies enlisting hyper-driven combat specialists like Navy SEALs or SWAT team members aren't the answer, either. “SEALs like to engage and fight, destroying the bad guy. Our goal is, we don’t want to be in the same room as the bad guy.”

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9 Wild Moments from Winter Olympics History
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With the Pyeongchang Olympics nearing their final weekend in South Korea, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the wildest and most unpredictable moments of Winter Games past.

1. AUSTRALIA WINS ITS FIRST WINTER GOLD MEDAL WHEN SPEED SKATER WAITS FOR HIS COMPETITORS TO FALL DOWN

Knowing he was overmatched by his fellow athletes during the 1000 Meter Short Track Speed Skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Australian Steven Bradbury devised a strategy of waiting in the back of the pack on the off chance that his competitors might trip up. Amazingly, the strategy worked when a disqualification in the quarterfinals got him through to the semis and a crash sent him to the finals.

In the final, favorite Apollo Anton Ohno and the three other competing skaters collided in an epic crash; the trailing Bradbury was close enough to the pack to cross the finish line before any of the fallen skaters, becoming Australia's first gold medalist in the Winter Olympics.

2. ALPINE SKIER HERMANN MAIER FLIES OFF THE COURSE AT 70 MPH, GETS UP AND WALKS AWAY

In downhill alpine skiing, skiers travel at extremely high velocities (typically 60 to 85 miles per hour) down courses that closely follow the mountain's fall line.

In 1998, Nagano Olympics race officials were worried about the downhill course—specifically, a steep angle between the 6th and 7th gates. They altered this portion but the section still posed a danger.

Austrian Hermann Maier finished first in the World Cup standings before the Olympics but had a reputation for recklessness within the skiing circuit—in fact, according to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, “caution was not a word in Maier's vocabulary." Maier didn't slow down before the aforementioned dangerous turn in Nagano and went flying off the course at 70 miles per hour, tumbling to a halt some 50 meters away. In a sport where injuries—and even deaths—aren't unheard of, Maier shocked TV audiences by getting up and walking away with nothing more than a bruised shoulder.

Benefiting from a 24-hour weather delay on his next event, the Super-G, Maier used the extra rest to get back in full form and took home the gold. He also came in first in the Giant Slalom three days later.

3. WOMEN CHEAT BY HEATING UP THEIR SLEDS


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There have been a limited number of cases of cheating in the Winter Olympics (far fewer than in the Summer Olympics), but that doesn't mean it’s an impossibility. Just ask Ortrun Enderlein.

Enderlein, the defending luge champion, and her two East German teammates aroused suspicion by showing up just before their runs and leaving the scene hastily after. Enderlein won gold and her teammates placed 3rd and 4th, but upon closer inspection, it was discovered that their sleds had been heated immediately before the races, which reduced friction with the ice and resulted in faster times. The three were disqualified and the East German Olympic Committee blamed the affair on a "capitalist revanchist plot.”

4. SKI JUMPER RALLIES NATIONAL PRIDE BY FINISHING LAST

English plasterer Michael Edwards traveled to Lake Placid, New York two years before the 1988 Calgary Olympics to fulfill his dream of making the event as a downhill skier. When money ran short, he decided to switch to ski jumping because it was significantly cheaper and there would be no competition at the national trials. Edwards became the first Olympic ski jumper in British history, but was far below the standards of the rest of the field.

Edwards crashed at the World Championships the year before the '88 Games and was ridiculed by the international press, who dubbed him “Mr. Magoo” due to his thick-rimmed glasses and heavy frame.

To the British, however, Edwards became a great source of fascination, which turned into a full-fledged national craze as he became the first Olympic ski jumper in the country's history and successfully landed his attempt at the Calgary Games. Although he didn't even score half the total points of any other competitor, he earned admiration worldwide and was given the nickname "Eddie the Eagle" by the President of the International Olympic Committee during the closing ceremony.

Sadly, many others in the Olympic community did not take him seriously, and they raised the qualifying standards to prevent Edwards from participating in the future. This didn't stop him from trying, but he failed to qualify on three successive occasions. Today, Edwards still plasters for a living and estimates that 70 percent of his income comes from speaking engagements.

In 2016, Eddie the Eagle, a biopic about Edwards’s life featuring Hugh Jackman (not playing Edwards), was released in theaters.

5. GOLD MEDALIST IN OLYMPICS' INAUGURAL SNOWBOARDING COMPETITION GETS BUSTED FOR MARIJUANA

At the 1998 Nagano Games, snowboarding was introduced in an effort to make the Olympics more appealing to a younger audience. Still, there was some trepidation about the perceived rambunctious lifestyle of the snowboarding community and how it would fit in with the formality of the Olympics.

Nothing better illustrated this clash of values than when Canadian Ross Rebagliati became the inaugural winner in the Parallel Giant Slalom and was promptly stripped of his medal three days after the event for testing positive for marijuana.

Rebagliati claimed to have ingested it second-hand at a party and the Canadian Olympic delegation successfully appealed the IOC's decision on the basis that marijuana isn't a performance-enhancing drug. He got his medal back before the Games ended.

Today, 20 years after the controversy, Rebagliati has moved on from his snowboarding past and is trying his hand at entrepreneurism: he’s the founder of Ross’ Gold, a cannabis business.

6. NANCY KERRIGAN VS. TONYA HARDING


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Tonya Harding was an ice skating prodigy from a broken home who ascended to the world stage in the early '90s. As her financial security and world ranking started to decline in the months leading up to the Olympics, Harding became frustrated and directed her anger at fellow American Nancy Kerrigan, who was ascending in the world standings and landing lucrative commercial endorsements.

Harding's on-again-off-again husband Jeff Gillooly conspired with two other men to attack and injure Kerrigan before the 1994 Olympics. They carried out the hit after Kerrigan's practice skate before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Shane Stant, Gillooly's hired man, hit Kerrigan on the knee with a police baton as she was talking to a reporter in a stadium hallway. He escaped by diving through a plexiglass door before running to a getaway car.

The attack resulted in a bruise, but because there was no bone or ligament damage, Kerrigan was able to perform and was selected (along with Harding, who was under investigation for the attack) for the U.S. Olympic team. At the Lillehammer Games, Kerrigan famously skated to a silver medal after terrific back-to-back performances while Harding, disgraced, finished in eighth place. Harding's life, and the scandal surrounding her competition with Kerrigan, has been turned into the Oscar-nominated film, I, Tonya.

According to Olympic Historian David Wallechinsky, when CBS executives thanked their staff in Norway for the great ratings (the figure skating finals were the one of the most watched events in television history at the time), a CBS employee wrote back: "Don't thank us. Thank Tonya."

7. TWO AMERICAN HOCKEY TEAMS ARE SENT TO THE OLYMPICS, BOTH ARE DISQUALIFIED


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Controversy erupted before the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz over whether the American Hockey Association or the Amateur Athletic Union was the chief governing authority for hockey in the United States. American Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage refused to sanction the AHA because of their commercial sponsorships, but the International Ice Hockey Federation officially ruled that the AAU was to be replaced by the AHA.

Amid the confusion, both teams made their way to St. Moritz to compete. Before they were set to march in the Opening Ceremony, the Swiss Olympic Organizing Committee banned the AAU. Because they were favored by Brundage, though, the AAU team got the honor of representing the U.S. in the opening ceremony, while the AHA team—which was actually allowed to compete by the organizing committee—had to sit in the stands.

8. LUGE TRACK WITH A HISTORY OF FATAL ACCIDENTS SELECTED AS SITE OF INAUGURAL LUGE COMPETITION


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Luge racers regularly hit speeds of over 95 miles per hour, meaning that even the smallest shift in body position can easily result in catastrophe. This was evident before the 2010 Vancouver Games, when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili careened off the track during a training run and died of his injuries.

It was an eerie replay of the luge's first-ever appearance at the Olympic Games. Two weeks before the Innsbruck Games in 1964, Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a British RAF pilot who was inexperienced in the sport, flew off the track and died during a training run. Additionally, a German doubles luge team was injured on the track in a separate accident. The track had had several fatal accidents when it opened decades before, and although it was modified thereafter, Olympic participants had to lobby for further safety precautions to reduce some of the danger.

9. FRENCH JUDGE CONFESSES TO THROWING THE COMPETITION


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The pairs figure skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics resulted in a massive scandal that gave wind to the long-standing notion that figure skating judges can be swayed. Russian competitors Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze made noticeable errors in their long program, while Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier performed a flawless routine that had the crowd chanting "Six! Six! Six!"

When the judges ruled 5-4 in favor of the Russians and loud boos rang from the arena, the Canadian Olympic officials filed a protest. Protests filed by the losing party have become relatively common in the Olympics and the exercise is often a symbolic and ultimately fruitless gesture. But in this case, some dirt actually turned up.

In the subsequent investigation, it was revealed that the swing vote, French judge Marie-Rene Le Gougne, was up for a seat on the International Skating Union's powerful technical committee, and reports surfaced that she confided to a British referee a few days earlier that she had been pressured by her own national committee to throw her vote for the Russian pairs.

Le Gougne changed her story a few days later in an effort to save face, but her contradictory statements only exacerbated the coverage into a full-blown media frenzy dubbed “skate-gate.” In the end, Le Gougne was suspended for three years, the Canadians were awarded a second pair of gold medals, and the sport underwent reform with judges' scores being kept secret and chosen at random.

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