7 most scandalous moments from this year’s Olympics

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Olympics always delivers magical and memorable moments from the thousands of competitors who showcase their sport every four years.

Each Games also produces its fair share of controversy.

From the ‘inappropriate’ images shown by one TV network during the Opening Ceremony to less than savoury moments on the track, Yahoo Sports charts those the Olympic organisers would rather forget.

TV network sorry for using wild, offensive images

Even before the Olympic flame had been lit, social media went ablaze in South Korea over poor taste images used by South Korea’s official broadcaster. MBC immediately apologised after using offensive images and captions to depict several nations during the ceremony.

MBC used an array of images when each nation entered the stadium, ranging from the harmless - salmon for Norway - to the controversial, which included using a picture of Chernobyl when it was Ukraine’s turn. Haitian competitors were also accompanied by a caption which read: "The political situation is fogged by the assassination of the president."

Cycling boss sent home for racist remarks

OYAMA, JAPAN - JULY 24: (L-R) Dmitriy Gruzdev of Team Kazakhstan, Nikias Arndt of Team Germany & Mohcine El Kouraji of Team Morocco during the Men's road race at the Fuji International Speedway on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 24, 2021 in Oyama, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
German rider Nikias Arndt condemned Patrick Moster’s comments on social media. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Germany’s cycling federation boss was sent packing from the Games after he was caught making racist remarks on camera during the men’s road time trial. Patrick Moster was said to be attempting to motivate a German rider, Nikias Arndt, who was chasing a pair of riders from Algeria and Eritrea, when he made the comments. “Get the camel drivers,” he was recorded saying. Moster apologised but the German Olympic Federation said he had “breached the Olympic values”.

Judoka defends coach’s ‘slap’

She said it was nothing more than a pre-competition tradition, but eyebrows were raised across the globe when images showed Germany’s Martyna Trajdos being shaken violently and slapped across each cheek before her bout in Tokyo

Trajdos was competing in the women's -63kg category when she stopped before the mat when the bizarre episode occurred. She later said that her coach is "just doing what I want him to do to fire me up."

Judokas fail to face Israeli opposition

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 26: Changrim An of Team Republic of Korea 
and Tohar Butbul of Team Israel compete during the Men’s Judo 73kg Quarterfinal on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Nippon Budokan on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tohar Butbul's (right) first two possible opponents dropped out of the Olympics shortly before they would have faced him. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Two Olympic judokas refused to take to the mat in Tokyo when they were drawn against Israeli rivals. Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool weighed in for his bout against Israeli Tohar Butbul but then failed to show. The athlete was ordered to leave the Games after his unexpected withdrawal. A few days previously, Algeria’s Fethi Nourine was sent home and suspended by world judo after he also withdrew to avoid a potential matchup with Butbul. “We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this,” said Nourine.

Belarusian at centre of political storm

In one of the most extraordinary stories of the Games - and recent Olympics - a Belarusian athlete was granted a humanitarian visa by Poland after she feared for her life if she returned to her homeland. In a prolonged story, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya claimed that she had been entered into the 4x400m relay without being consulted and then forced to return to Belarus on the order of two coaches.

Watch: Belarusian 'so happy' to reach Poland

She then used Google Translate to issue a plea for help to Japanese police at a Tokyo airport and managed to avoid boarding a flight. She later travelled to Warsaw where she met up with her husband. "I just wanted to run at the Olympics, it was my dream,” she said. The two coaches were later stripped of their accreditation by Olympic officials as the story rumbled on.

Transgender athlete's controversial appearance

Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes in the women's +87kg weightlifting event at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard competed in the women's +87kg weightlifting event in Tokyo. (Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The silence spoke volumes. During the press conference for the medal winners in the 87kg lifting event, a reporter had asked their thoughts on competing alongside a transgender athlete. Seconds passed before a ‘No, thank you’ was issued by the US bronze medallist. 

Watch: Weightlifters shun questions on transgender athlete

It came after Laurel Hubbard made history as the first trans woman to compete in a solo event at the Olympics. The 43-year-old, who failed to complete a lift, later announced her retirement from the sport. “Age has caught up with me. In fact if we're being honest it probably caught up with me some time ago,” said Hubbard.

British Rowing find choppy waters

Great Britain's Oliver Cook, Matthew Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie react to finishing fourth in the Men�s Four during the Rowing at the Sea Forest Waterway on the fifth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Wednesday July 28, 2021.
Great Britain's Oliver Cook, Matthew Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie react to finishing fourth in the Men's Four. (Photo by: Press Association)

Team GB’s rowers registered their worst Olympic performance for 49 years - one silver, one bronze and six fourth-places - with several acrimonious moments played out in television and newspaper interviews. First, following the coxless four’s failure to win Olympic gold for the first time since 1996, Matthew Rossiter claimed that some of his illustrious predecessors would be "smug" at the defeat – a comment thought to be aimed at James Cracknell, who poured scorn on the notion.

On the final day of racing, Josh Bugajski, part of the men’s eight that won bronze in the final race, said that he “popped a bottle of champagne when Jurgen retired. I had three very dark years under him.” Bugajski was referring to Jurgen Grobler, who had quit after 28 years last summer. Much to ponder for British Rowing ahead of Paris 2024.

Watch: Bribery and corruption at the Olympics

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting