Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021 | Last Update : 02:31 AM IST

  When officials played spoilsport at Games

When officials played spoilsport at Games

Published : Jul 19, 2016, 12:59 am IST
Updated : Jul 19, 2016, 12:59 am IST

Light middleweight boxer Park Si-hun of South Korea was declared the winner at the 1988 Seoul Olympics despite only 32 hits as opposed to USA’s Roy Jones’ 86.

Light middleweight boxer Park Si-hun of South Korea was declared the winner at the 1988 Seoul Olympics despite only 32 hits as opposed to USA’s Roy Jones’ 86.

The Olympics is the pinnacle of achievement in most sports. Competition wasn’t fierce in the first couple of editions of the Games but the stakes reached dizzying heights as years rolled on.


It’s, therefore, not surprising that refereeing controversies have dogged the Games all along. Here is a chronicle of three cantankerous events in the history of the Games.

London, 1908: From the beginning, American athletes didn’t see to eye with their British counterparts. That all officials in athletics hailed from the host nation added fuel to the fire and things reached boiling point in the 400m final. British track officials ordered a re-run of the final after adjudging that USA’s John Carpenter had impeded Scotland’s Wyndham Halswelle. Carpenter was also disqualified.

A furious American contingent pulled out its two remaining competitors from the re-run. Halswelle won a farcical gold medal by running all alone. It remains the only instance in which an Olympic gold was won after a walkover.


Munich, 1972: The Cold War politics reared its ugly head in the Olympic arena to spoil an intriguing basketball final between the USSR and USA. Having not lost a match since 1936, the Americans were expected to take gold without any fuss. But the match was neck-and-neck. With the USSR leading 49-48 in the dying seconds, the US gained two free throws. The American bench erupted in joy after both throws swished through the hoop. But the Brazilian referee ordered a restart, ruling that the Soviet bench had called a time-out between the throws.

The US held on to the slenderest of leads until the buzzer sounded again. Their joy was shortlived once again. This time Fiba’s secretary intervened inexplicably to add three more seconds to the clock. Even as USA were coming to terms with the absurdity of the extra time, the USSR initiated a move that resulted in a basket and a 51-50 triumph for them.


The entire US team, justifiably enraged, boycotted the medal ceremony. The silver medals are safe in the vaults of the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Some American players have written wills that their children should not accept the medals.

Seoul, 1988: South Korean boxer Park Si-hun himself knew that he had comprehensively been beaten by America’s Roy Jones Jr in the light middleweight final but judges, lavishly wined and dined by the hosts, ruled differently. To the disbelief of everyone, Park was declared a winner. Despite dominating the three rounds and recording 86 hits to his opponents’ 32, Jones had to be content with a silver medal. Park raised the arm of Jones on the podium after telling him: “I’m sorry. I lost the fight. I feel very bad.” The scandal forced boxing authorities to go for radical changes in awarding points.