This is the sixth in a series of examinations of legends related to the Olympics and whether they are true or false.
OLYMPIC LEGEND: The Olympic rings date back to the Ancient Greek Olympics.
As stated in an earlier edition of Olympic Legends Revealed, there is a popular misconception that the rings of the Olympic flag originally stood for the five continents of the world (with Antarctica not counted and the Americas counted as one continent).
However, there is another misconception that is a great deal more deliberate than people just forgetting what the Olympic flag originally stood for.
You see, back when Germany was hosting the Olympics, they were really into the idea of tying Nazism and Germany in with the Ancient Greek history, so they introduced the idea of the Lighting of the Torch and the Torch Relay (as related in an earlier Olympic Legends Revealed).
Well, they also decided they wanted to tie in the modern Olympics even more with the Ancient Olympics, so they actually carved the modern Olympic rings into an ancient stone at Delphi in Greece!!!
Yes, the Nazis’ great idea was to desecrate ancient ruins!
In Leni Riefenstahl’s stunning film of the Olympic Games, she filmed the torch relay from Delphi, and she made sure to note the “ancient” rings carved in the stone.
But whatever, so some Nazis decided to make up some stuff – that shouldn’t affect the rest of the world, should it?
It shouldn’t havem, except some time in the 1950s, a couple of British archaeologists “discovered” the ancient stone with the rings and made a big deal about their “discovery.”
And as a result, the “discovery” went into the news as a genuine historical find, and you know how people are, the reveal is on Page 1 of the paper (or Page 1 of the section of the paper where things like this would be) but the “Oops, this is actually a modern carving in an ancient rock” statement is always on Page 24.
So the story has carried on to this very day, but now we know, it’s baloney.
OLYMPIC LEGEND: A British athlete had to make a quick (and strange) move to find a country to compete for in the Olympics.
Yamilé Aldama has a problem.
The Cuban born triple jumper had been living in London, England, for three years, but she was unable to obtain a passport.
She had competed for Cuba in the 2000 Summer Olympics in the triple jump (coming in fourth) and now she wanted to compete for England.
However, things were going quite slowly (it did not help that her Scottish-born husband had recently been arrested on drug charges), and she already had missed out on the 2003 World Championships in France because of her lack of a passport.
Despite the aide of UK Athletics, the earliest she could obtain a British passport would be November 2004, some three months after the conclusion of the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
With seemingly nowhere else to turn, Aldama turned to, of all places, the Sudan.
She traveled to the capital city of Sudan, Khartoum, and within two days, the large African nation (large in size and population but low on Olympic medals) now had one more citizen, Yamilé Aldama.
Aldama has done well for her new country at the various African championships, coming in first in her even three times since 2004, but the games that she was “hired” for, the 2004 Olympics, saw a smaller return on Sudan’s “investmant,” as Aldama came in fifth in the event.
She did not compete in 2008.
OLYMPIC LEGEND: A 17 year old took up the decathlon a few months before he won the Gold Medal in the event.
Bob Mathias was a sensational high school athlete whose high school career was coming to a close at the start of 1948, his senior year. Mathias already had received over FORTY first place finishes in various track and field events and had won the California Interscholastic Federation discus and shot put champion in 1947.
In the spring of 1948, his coach figured he could use a new challenge, so he suggested that Mathias try out for the decathlon in the Southern Pacific American Amateur Union Games in Los Angeles. The games were literally three weeks away, and Mathias had to actually learn how to play some of the games that make up the decathlon, including to pole vault and throw a javelin.
After three weeks of training, he won the competition easily.
Two weeks later, he was traveling cross country to New Jersey where the Natonal tournament was held (winner would go to the Olympics). He won that also handedly.
The Summer Olympics were in London at the end of July.
Mathias ended the first day third out of 39 competitors, but by the second day he was in first and after the last day, he had easily won! He was, at 17 years of age, the youngest man to win a Gold Medal in track and field in Olympic history!
Now a Gold Medal winner, Mathias saw himself named the Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1948.
Sadly for Mathias, his academic abilities were not on the same part as his athletic abilities, so he had to go to a junior college for a year before he was finally allowed into Stanford.
In 1952, he won his SECOND Gold Medal in the decathlon, defeating the second place athlete by the largest margin in decathlon history.
Mathias did a few different things for the next decade (include get married). He starred in a film adaptation of his life (alongside his wife, also playing herself). He joined the Marines. He ran his own camp.
Finally, in 1966, he ran for Congress in California as a Republican and won. He served four terms before finally being defeated in 1974.
He stayed involved in politics for the next few years, then spent the rest of his life involved in athletics, as part of various Olympic committees and the National Fitness Foundation.
He passed away in 2006 from cancer at the age of 75.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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