Did the IOC Create a Rule to Specifically Ban a Certain Olympic Athlete From Competing?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about the Olympics and Olympians and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Olympic urban legends featured so far.

OLYMPIC URBAN LEGEND: The International Olympics Committee created a new rule just to make a certain participant ineligible for future Olympics.

Eddie Edwards burst onto the international scene when he competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary as the lone British representative in the ski jumping competition.

A plasterer by trade, Edwards had a number of obstacles to overcome in his attempt for Olympic Gold.

For one, he was a lot heavier than the other competitors. For two, he needed to wear glasses at all times, and as a result, they would often fog up in the cold. For three, since he was entirely self-financed, his training and equipment lagged behind all the other ski jumpers.

Therefore, Edwards, who was nicknamed “Eddie the Eagle,” really did not have much of a chance at actually winning a medal, and in fact, he came in dead last in both of the ski jumping competitions he entered.

However, he also ended up capturing the imaginations of the international community – this comical looking fellow (some called him “Mr. Magoo because of his glasses) who didn’t mind the odds, he just wanted to compete. In many ways, people looked to him as a throwback to the original days of the Olympics, when athletes did not devote their entire lives to to games, but when a plasterer from Great Britain could take time off and compete for an Olympic Gold Medal every four years.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), made reference to Eddie in his closing statements about the ceremony, which is extremely rare, as the president almost never spotlights particular athletes (as you could only imagine the hard feelings that might cause in some cases). He said:

[At Calgary] people set new goals, created new world records, and some even flew like an eagle.

The crowd, naturally, went wild at the comment.

While the public as a whole were fans of Eddie (he got a book deal after the Games ended, and there was even a hit song in Finland about him!), the IOC and especially the ski-jumping community, were less enthused.

So the IOC instituted what is now known as the Eddie the Eagle Rule. All competitors for the Olympics must finish in the top half of an international competition if they want to compete in the Olympics.

And thus, Eddie the Eagle’s career as an Olympic ski jumper drew to a close (although he DID try to qualify – he just couldn’t make it).

While he was a bit goofy, it’s still a bit sad that the Olympics feel that there is no place for people like Eddie at the Games.

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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