In the final part of our series on the 50 most stunning Olympic moments, Sportsmail looks back at the historic moment Jesse Owens defied Hitler, relives the track heroics of Daley Thompson – and celebrates the sprinter who restored our faith in athletics…
10. Daley STAR
Daley Thompson had walked his talk when he won his first decathlon gold in 1980. What he said and what he did four years on went to another level altogether.
If rivalries are the cornerstone of great sport, then Thompson was helped by having the brilliant West German Jurgen Hingsen next to him at those LA Games of 1984. What they delivered across two days was remarkable and then, once the Brit had triumphed for his second Olympic gold, he set a new personal best in controversy.
What Daley Thompson achieved at the 1984 Olympics was nothing short of remarkable
He started with a dig at US TV coverage, whistled through the national anthem and then ramped it up with a T-shirt which questioned the sexuality of Carl Lewis. From there, he said he wanted to have a baby with Princess Anne. All this within approximately two hours of jogging the 1500m and turning his nose up at the world record.
‘Maybe they just weren’t ready for me,’ Thompson told Sportsmail recently. ‘Maybe they still aren’t.’
A unique talent, a rare personality and quite possibly Britain’s greatest ever Olympian.
9. The perfect jump
After Bob Beamon redefined human flight with the most astonishing feat in the history of athletics, so shocked was he by his world-record 8.90m long jump at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico that he collapsed next to the sand pit with a bout of nausea.
To put that in context, the record had been broken 13 times since 1901 and never by more than 15cm. Beamon beat it by 55cm. For the first time in history, the 28ft mark had been passed; for that matter, so had 29ft.
The distance was so great that the measurement equipment in the stadium was insufficient for the task, so a new tape had to be called in.
The record came from a perfect storm of circumstances: the altitude was 2,240m, the tailwind was the maximum permitted of 2m per second and Beamon held the No 2 distance in history at that point with 8.33m. With his first jump Beamon obliterated the 8.35m mark held jointly by Igor Ter-Ovanesyan and Ralph Boston. It was 23 years before Mike Powell broke the world record.
Bob Beamon fell to his knees after shattering the long jump record at the 1986 Olympics
8. Lewis catches Owens
If we stick to the criteria for a stunning moment, then it has to be the 4x100m relay in 1984 when Carl Lewis won his fourth gold of the Games and therefore matched Jesse Owens’ historic contribution to Berlin 1936. But a liberty needs to be taken with our stricture in this case so we can appreciate the wider merits of what Lewis achieved in Los Angeles.
While his reputation has been undermined by subsequent doping revelations, there can be no doubt that the winner of nine golds spanning four Games is one of the very best athletes in history. His peak was clearly 1984, when he won the 100m in 9.99sec before he took his first of four long jump gold medals and then claimed the 200m in an Olympic record 19.80sec.
He wrapped up the quadruple by anchoring the US team to a world record in the 4x100m.
His positive tests in 1988, which didn’t come to light until years later, have hurt his name as much as they hurt the sport.
Carl Lewis matched Jesse Owens’ record of four gold medals at the Olympic Games in 1984
7. The golden touch
Was the greatest haul of gold in the history of the Olympics built on a faulty touchpad? Or should we simply accept that what looked so clear was not what it seemed and that Michael Phelps really did win the 100m butterfly in Beijing?
The books record that it was his seventh gold, equalling what Mark Spitz achieved in 1972, and his subsequent victory in the 4x100m medley had him all alone on eight, the most prolific champion of a single Games. Over the course of his remarkable career, Phelps would amass a barely believable 23 gold medals but no Games was as bountiful as 2008 and no race as baffling as that 100m butterfly.
He had won gold and set world records in the 400m individual medley, the 4x100m freestyle, the 200m freestyle, the 200m butterfly, the 4x200m freestyle and the 200m individual medley.
Michael Phelps became the most prolific champion of a single Games at Beijing in 2008
He had also navigated a schedule that allowed only nine minutes between his medal ceremony for the 200m individual medley and the semi-final of the 100m butterfly and would later close the show with another gold and world record in the 4x100m medley.
But the major drama was reserved for that 100m butterfly final. Milorad Cavic had laid the groundwork and riled Phelps by saying it would ‘be nice if historians talk about Michael Phelps winning seven gold medals and losing the eighth to some guy’.
Maybe the Serbian was that guy. Most angles show he touched first, but Phelps was given gold by 0.01sec. Did Cavic fail to apply enough pressure to the touchpad? Or was it something more sinister – one theory pointed to Phelps’ sponsor connections to the official timekeeper Omega.
Or maybe a swimmer who defied all logic also defied the laws of sight. An Olympic mystery wrapped in history.
6. Games’ salute shame
At a time of enormous racial discord in the US, two of their finest athletes stood on a podium and gave their salute. The unpalatable shame is that 52 years after Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists in Mexico, the injustices they were highlighting still exist. It was Smith, the winner of the 200m ahead of bronze medallist Carlos, who so eloquently said in his press conference: ‘If I win I am an American, not a black American. But if I did something bad then they would say ‘a Negro’. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.’
The reaction of the IOC? On the directive of their long-reigning president Avery Brundage, a man alleged to have a diverse range of prejudices, Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Games.
It is 52 years since Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled for this powerful stance
5. SUPER SATURDAY
The memories of London 2012 get rosier with each visit from a more depressing present. They were a wonderful Games and no day was greater than that which is recalled as Super Saturday.
We had the three golds that might unfairly serve as a quiz question and then the three that will always shine bright in the mind. In the case of the former, there were two victorious rowing boats — Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Alex Gregory in one and Kat Copeland and Sophie Hosking in the other — in the morning. By early evening they had been joined on the top step by the cycling team pursuit trio of Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell in the velodrome.
Those medals set the tone for 44 minutes of utter mayhem on the athletics track. First, shortly after 9pm, was Jessica Ennis, that inscrutable and marvellous talent who annihilated the best heptathletes in the world. Then there was Greg Rutherford, winner of the long jump, and finally, Mo Farah, the 10,000m champion who emerged as a beacon of a more harmonious Britain.
Farah’s sporting legacy has become rather more complicated since then. But the glow of that day and night remains.
Jessica Ennis was one of several Brits to strike gold on a super Saturday at London 2012
4. Biles miles ahead of the rest
Even in an era of great sporting champions, no one is able to crush and destroy opposition with the same elegance or brutality as that routinely managed by a 4ft 8in gymnast from Columbus, Ohio. What tiny Simone Biles does in her area of expertise is without equal.
It has never been exhibited in a more startling manner than in the all-around event at the Rio Olympics of 2016. That’s the one they all want to win and yet it was the event in which rivals openly admitted on arrival in Brazil they were fighting for silver. How right they were.
While the sight of Biles contorting through the air is truly remarkable and one which all sports fans should seek out as a matter of bucket-list urgency, her numbers tell the best story. Namely, in that all-around final, her margin of victory over silver was 2.1pts. To put that in context, since the 1972 Olympics, the margin of victory in the women’s all-around had never been more than 0.7pts. More absurdly, if you add up all the winning margins since 1976, it still doesn’t hit 2.1pts.
Biles went on to win four golds and a bronze at Rio and has a further 23 world titles aged 23. She is a wonder of the sporting world.
Simone Biles blew away the competition with elegant and brilliant performances at Rio 2016
3. Jesse’s supremacy
Four gold medals and a figurative two fingers to Adolf Hitler. There cannot have been a more culturally significant episode in sporting history than what played out when a black athlete named Jesse Owens went to Berlin in 1936 and made a nonsense of Hitler’s hateful idea of Aryan supremacy.
In seven days at those Games, Owens won the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay and achieved an athletic feat that would not be matched until Carl Lewis came along in 1984. That Hitler is said to have snubbed Owens in victory was dismissed as a myth by Owens himself. By unflattering contrast, US president Franklin D Roosevelt never invited him to the White House.
In a broader study that looks further beyond Olympic and sporting boundaries, Owens would be No 1 on any list.
Jesse Owens gave a figurative two finger salute to Adolf Hitler by winning four golds in Berlin
2. All that glitters is not gold
With his eyes bulging and yellow, Ben Johnson set fire to the 100m world record at the 1988 Games and then torched his entire sport three days later. Has athletics ever truly recovered from the discovery of steroids in his urine? Has more harm ever been done to a sport that relies so heavily on people believing what they are seeing?
You’d never call Johnson a trailblazer in the realms of cheating at games and pursuits – historians have it that a chap called Eupolus from Thessaly was bribing his boxing opponents to lose as far back as 388 BC and thousands have cut corners since, many as cogs in state-sponsored machines.
But maybe, through name and stage and place and time, Johnson caused the single biggest explosion of the myth of fair play. Maybe, more than anyone else, he is the reason why when you watch an event as marvellous as the Olympic Games, it is that bit harder to feel a sense of wonder when something amazing happens.
Ben Johnson caused the single biggest explosion of the myth of fair play back at 1988 Games
1. The Games’ saviour
And then there was Usain Bolt. Out of the suspicion and the apathy and the fading grandeur of the Olympics came that yellow and green blur and a personality that was twice as bright. What he started at the 2008 Games in Beijing, and continued through two more at London and Rio, not only restored the old church but put a bit of faith back into it.
Has there ever been a sharper marriage of talent and character and event? If Johnson was the poison, then Bolt was the cure, kicking off with that astonishing appearance in Beijing.
It was the 100m that got us, of course. He was the world-record holder by the time he got to China but it says everything about the speed of his emergence that the 21-year-old Jamaican had set that mark of 9.72sec in only his fifth senior race at the distance, two months before the Games.
Usain Bolt restored faith in athletics with unbelievable wins in Beijing, London and Rio
When he arrived in Beijing, his profile outside athletics was limited and Michael Phelps was already seven golds deep by the Saturday of the 100m final.
What came next is the stuff of legends. On a belly full of chicken nuggets – he would later explain he was eating 100 a day – Bolt danced on the start line, then unfurled that lanky frame from the blocks and covered 100m in a barely believable 9.69sec. He took 41 strides to become the quickest man in history (mortals take around 45) and when he was done he struck a pose that folk the world over would now recognise.
He went on in those Games to break Michael Johnson’s world record in the 200m, then won the 4x100m gold (later stripped as a team-mate doped) and a further six Olympic golds across 2012 and 2016 before his retirement. He is the greatest sprinter ever and quite possibly the greatest Olympian; a man who had a golden touch for any company that hired him (Virgin reported a 2.4 per cent rise in revenue after taking him on, Puma 10 per cent) and sporting success like few others. He arrived at a time when the Olympics badly needed a hero. Now that he has gone, there is a vacancy that needs filling.
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English football divided over whether to ‘take a knee’ before matches
English football is divided over whether it is still relevant to ‘take a knee’ before matches.
What began during Project Restart as a unanimous gesture of support for the anti-racism movement after the shocking death of George Floyd in America in May, is now causing confusion for many players.
Several clubs have decided that it will lose significance if continued indefinitely and on Saturday in 16 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions, players did not kneel before kick-off.
There has been a split over whether clubs should continue to take a knee before matches start
In 6 out of 37 matches in the top four divisions on Saturday players did not kneel beforehand
It went ahead in all four Premier League matches and at every game in the Championship except Norwich v Preston. But the picture was less clear in League One and League Two where the majority did not take a knee. Out of 23 matches in the lower two leagues players did not take the knee in 15 of them.
QPR have reiterated their commitment to fighting racism and social injustice after their players and Coventry’s declined to take the knee, as has been habitual in televised games, before Friday night’s Championship clash on Sky TV.
Manager Mark Warburton and chief executive Lee Hoos have both spoken in support of player protests to highlight racial inequality.
But they insist that taking the knee is an issue for players and that the club should be judged their record rather than the gesture itself. Both teams agreed with the referee that they weren’t going to take the knee before the game and Warburton said: ‘We have absolute respect for such an important cause and all of our players, to a man and staff, followed the lead [last season] and took the knee.
‘Some teams have been saying at the end of lockdown, that we’ve done it now. So we’re saying there should be guidance from the EFL.
Mark Warburton defended his QPR team who were one of several teams that did not kneel
‘When I came off the pitch last night and was made aware that some were saying QPR’s behaviour might have been inappropriate, I was appalled.
‘We had the first game against Nottingham Forest last week and both clubs said: ‘We’ve done it. We’re full of respect for the cause but we don’t want it to become a token gesture.’ Our players are saying: ‘Are we doing it every game?’
‘As in the clap for carers, it tends to lose its power over time. But when clap for carers stopped, there’s no less respect for carers.
‘We abhor all forms of discrimination and I don’t think there’s a more-diverse club in football. It’s important that we’re seen to have BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] representation, given the work we do in our community, which is a very diverse. Any suggestion that the club has acted inappropriately should be met with a powerful response on our part.’
Hoos was adamant that the stance of the players was not an endorsement of those seeking to belittle taking the knee or the message behind Black Lives Matter. He said: ‘People who say ‘All Lives Matter’ just don’t get it and to suggest that QPR support that kind of thinking that would be perverse.’
After their match with Bournemouth on Saturday, Middlesbrough’s assistant Kevin Blackwell said: ‘Myself and people from Bournemouth spoke about it and we decided we would both take a knee.
‘We need guidance from the Football League about this. There’s a point now where we have got to decide ‘is this relevant? Are people getting the meaning across?’ I would like to see people now do things about it rather than sit down and talk about it. We need actions taken for the right reasons.’
Sheffield Wednesday and Watford took the knee at Hillsborough and Owls boss Garry Monk said: ‘We want to keep awareness of it in the spotlight and not let it fade away.’ Brentford’s Thomas Frank added: ‘I didn’t know some teams didn’t do it, I think it’s a good cause and we all should support it.’
Sanjay Bhandari, the chairman of Kick It Out, insisted that they wanted action rather than a debate about gestures.
‘We encourage the players to continue to protest in whatever form they feel comfortable and to do so free of the risk of sanction, whether that protest is taking a knee, wearing a badge or any other form,’ he said.
‘The form of protest and who protests is not the issue and should not detract from the real issue. The real issue is meaningful action to create sustainable change. We need to focus on the targets for greater representation in football leadership and coaching; and on mobilising everyone to stand against the rise in hate, especially online.’
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Harry Kane will be ecstatic that Gareth Bale is coming to share the goalscoring burden
In terms of achievement, they aren’t equals. Bale has four Champions League titles.
But I don’t think it’ll bother Kane. Every player has an ego but he will also be selfishly thinking with Bale around, Spurs have a better chance of delivering a trophy and competing for a top-four place.
Harry Kane will be ecstatic that Tottenham have signed former star Gareth Bale on loan
The 31-year-old has joined from Real Madrid for the season and his arrival has been welcomed
Most players like to look around the dressing room and feel reassured they’ve got top people around them.
I had that with Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen at Liverpool, and Kane will benefit from seeing Bale alongside him. Instead of feeling that unless he scores, Spurs may not win, I expect Kane’s level to rise having a world-class player next to him.
People talk about Bale at Real, but I think his success with Wales is an equally good indicator. He’ll be able to knuckle down and play whichever way Jose Mourinho wants.
Kane has had to shoulder the attacking burden for Spurs since breaking into the team in 2014
Real usually dominate the ball and Bale doesn’t have to think too much about defensive duties. But on the international stage, he was ready to lead and disciplined enough to fit into a team pattern when the opposition might be better.
He’s only 31 and been lightly used for 18 months so I don’t think he should be found physically wanting whether Mourinho wants his forwards to press, play counter-attack or play between the lines.
I think Bale’s most effective position will be wide on the right of a 4-3-3 but if Mourinho wants to go 4-2-3-1, he could do a job as No 10.
Kane and the rest will find a Galactico happy to be one of the team. It’s a terrific signing.
With Bale in the side, Kane will be confident Spurs can win major silverware this season
Thiago – the right signing at the right price for Liverpool
There is no doubt in my mind Thiago Alcantara is coming to Liverpool as a first XI player — I doubt very much he’s had any conversations with Jurgen Klopp about sitting on the bench this season.
He has great feet, passes well, has super awareness and can play in any of the midfield positions. I don’t see any risk at under £30million because he only had a year left on his Bayern contract.
I do think Gini Wijnaldum’s departure has an air of inevitability about it now because Liverpool will have seven or eight players challenging for three positions, which means too many unhappy faces for the balance of the squad.
There aren’t many ways Klopp could have made Liverpool better but Thiago certainly will
There aren’t many ways Klopp could made this Liverpool even better but I think Thiago will. He’s fit enough to do the work required of Liverpool’s midfield and has that ability to play progressive passes.
He can do a job where Fabinho played last season or if Fabinho is in the team, he can operate higher up the pitch.
Liverpool’s recruitment has been outstanding, finding hungry players itching to reach the top. But now they’re at the summit, I can see the sense in bringing in ready-made, particularly when they are bargains.
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IT’S MELTDOWN – Government warned that fans need to return or financial consequences will be severe
The Government have been warned that the delay in allowing fans back into stadiums is a ‘nightmare’ which risks jeopardising the entire English football pyramid because of the impending financial catastrophe.
Test events, now limited to 1,000 fans due to new Government restrictions, took place at seven EFL games on Saturday including Championship clubs Norwich and Middlesbrough.
The Government have been warned that supporters need to return to stadiums soon
Tuesday’s cabinet meeting is seen as crucial in determining whether the Government will go ahead with the planned October 1 date for readmission of some fans, though it looks increasingly likely the best the Premier League can hope for is test events of about 2,500 fans.
But EFL executives are warning they cannot live on handouts and tax deferrals for ever.
Lee Hoos, chief executive at Championship club QPR, says that it cost clubs tens of thousands to put on games at present, which is unsustainable.
QPR chief executive Lee Hoos says clubs are having to pay tens of thousands to stage games
Hoos said: ‘League One and Two are already talking about how long clubs can continue to put on games and lose money. The most amazing thing is how long it took for Wigan to go into administration.
‘If clubs get to a point where they have nothing coming through the gates and decide to terminate the season, that could be the end of the English football pyramid as we know it.
‘We need to have some revenue coming in. We’re not an industry that receives a Government bailout. We need the opportunity to stand on our own two feet.
‘Safety has to be the No1 priority. But there’s been a considerable amount of work with Sports Ground Safety Authority and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in terms of how we can do this safely. We have plans submitted with the local council to say this is how we could get people in. We’re just waiting for the OK.’
Experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent
Test events of 1,000 fans took place at Norwich, Middlesbrough, Charlton, Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Forest Green Rovers and Carlisle on Saturday but the Premier League suspended their test events, saying 1,000 fans weren’t a large enough cohort to provide meaningful data.
Brady, who wrote in her newspaper column that Premier League clubs were collectively losing £80million a month in gate receipts, said: ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to see what the delay in bringing back spectators to football is all about — except optics,’ she wrote.
West Ham executive vice-chairman Karren Brady is eager for supporters to be let back in
‘A Premier League football stadium is the safest place you can be. Safer than your own living room. Our highly supervised environment means supporters are safer in there than if they were mixing informally in their own homes.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is arguing the cause of the sports industry in cabinet but with further national restrictions now looking imminent to add to the rule of six, it remains to be seen whether a more nuanced message, that stadiums are safe, and the scale of the imminent financial disaster will cut through to the Prime Minister.
Dortmund show how it’s done with 10,000 crowd
By Lukas Rott
You could hear the excitement in Norbert Dickel’s voice. The Borussia Dortmund legend is now the announcer at Signal Iduna Park.
Giovanni Reyna had just opened the scoring in front of the 9,300 supporters. Dickel took the mike and, before declaring the scorer’s name, said: ‘I have waited so long to do this.’
We all have. Two Dortmund fans outside the stadium held a sign before the game which read: ‘Covid-19 is dying. BVB will never die’. You could see how much the supporters loved to be back.
10,000 fans were in attendance for Borussia Dortmund’s game v Borussia Monchengladbach
It was a strange atmosphere. There were 2,000 fans in the yellow wall instead of the usual 25,000. But they did their best to bring as much atmosphere as they could. They sang their songs as loud as they could. Huge cheers greeted the teams coming out. More when the Dortmund names were announced. Boos met the Gladbach players.
It was still so different. Fans on one side of the stadium could not hear the ones on the other so they sang their own songs. And with no away fans they could sing about Monchengladbach without fear of any reply.
By the end, with Dortmund three up, the Mexican wave had begun, even with a few gaps.
The celebrations felt more emotional. The hugs lasted longer. Having the fans back surely played a part in that. Goals were not celebrated quite so intensely when the stands were empty.
With fans at the ground, the celebrations for Dortmund’s goals felt much more emotional
Fans were excited but they respected the situation. They maintained their distance, even when goals went in. They stood in their own groups, sharing a look with the next nearest set of supporters but nothing more. After the final whistle, they were told to remain in their seats.
Stewards made sure all the conditions were met. They checked people were sanitising their hands and approached the few people who did not stay disciplined. Masks had to be worn when moving around the stadium and when queuing, even outside the ground. Fans had timetables for getting into the ground, they brought their IDs. Toilets used a one-way system.
People realise that the Covid situation changes daily. Cases are going up so everyone is just enjoying the moment. Everyone felt happy to be back.
Everyone felt safe.
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