Some hot hot trivia to help your passion burn before Rio.
Today is the start of my third Summer Olympics since I launched 11 Points. (I started the site just a few months before the 2008 games in Beijing.) Last week I wrote about the 11 Summer Olympics sports where the U.S. has never won gold. A few years back, I did 11 really strange Olympics facts. And today, I’ve got more trivia facts, only I’m going to call them “fantastic” as opposed to “strange.”
If “semantics” ever becomes an Olympic sport, I should get in on it.
Here are 11 fantastic Olympics trivia facts to impress your friends and/or make small talk with strangers as you revel in the opening ceremonies tonight… watch captivated through swimming and gymnastics next week… and kinda glance at the TV during track and field in two weeks.
1 | Sweden and Finland are tied for the longest Olympic winning streak
Both countries have won at least one medal at every Olympics, Winter and Summer, since 1908. There are a few other countries, including the U.S., that have won a medal at every Olympics they participated in — but they’ve all missed at least one for a boycott. Sweden and Finland never boycotted an Olympics, and never skipped winning as a result. (The entire thing reminds me of when I thought it was unfair as a kid that I never got a certificate for perfect attendance because I missed days of school for very valid and personal reasons, like a Jewish holiday or minor orthodontic surgery. Those perfect attendance kids were the kiss ass Scandinavian countries of the elementary school.)
2 | No city has ever hosted the Summer and Winter Olympics (but that’s about to change)
Beijing, which hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, will host the Winter Olympics in 2022, and become the first country to host both. And that’s great news, since maybe they can dust off all the stadiums they built for the first time in 14 years.
3 | Even though the Soviet Union hasn’t competed in the Summer Olympics in more than 20 years, it’s still second in the all-time medal count
The U.S. has 2,399 medals, the Soviet Union has 1,010, and Great Britain has 780. The Soviet Union also amassed all of those medals in just nine Olympics (an average of 112 medals per games) while the U.S. has been in 26 (92 medals per games). Our medal count is awfully lucky the Soviet Union broke up. Our pro wrestling storylines could really use evil Russians still around, though.
4 | Only two countries boycotted both the 1980 and 1984 Summer Olympics
It’s a strange Venn diagram of countries that were outraged enough to boycott both 1980 and 1984.
There were 65 countries that boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow in 1980, to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. That list includes the U.S., Canada, West Germany, and most of the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean.
Four years later, there were 14 countries that boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, in solidarity with the Soviet Union or just generally over dislike of the U.S.
The only two countries that diversified their anger enough to skip both? Iran and Albania.
5 | The reigning Olympic rugby champion is the U.S
Rugby is returning at these Olympics, which is bad news for the defending champs. The U.S. won the gold medal back in 1924, the last time rugby was included, marking an incredible 92-year winning streak. And unless a sequence of miracles happens, that streak will be ending in Rio.
6 | Canada is the only country that didn’t win a gold medal the year it hosted the Summer Olympics
Every country that’s hosted a Summer Olympics has won a gold during those games — except Canada in 1976. Canadian athletes won five silver medals and six bronzes at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, but no gold.
7 | Dr. Benjamin Spock won a gold medal in rowing at the 1924 Olympics
Many years before he was writing famous baby books — and many, many years before he was interchangeably confused for a Star Trek character — Benjamin Spock was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in rowing. His crew won a gold medal in Paris in 1924.
8 | Detroit has the worst record trying to host the Olympics; London has the best
Detroit really wants (or wanted) to host the Olympics. The city put in bids for the games in 1944, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972. And it was rejected every single time. No other city is 0-for-7. Budapest and Istanbul have the second-worst result, at 0-for-5. But unlike Detroit, they keep trying. Budapest currently has an application in for the 2024 Olympics, which could either be its sixth miss or first success.
On the flip side, London has the best batting average. It’s made four bids to host and gotten the Olympics all four times. Other cities with perfect records (they’re all 1-for-1) are St. Louis, Antwerp, Munich, Seoul and Sydney.
9 | Jackie Robinson’s brother finished second in a very famous event
Jesse Owens’s performance at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is one of the most famous in Olympics history — he won four events and, as history tells it, shoved it right in Hitler’s damn face.
But he wasn’t the only athlete in those track events tied to groundbreaking moments in black history. The runner who finished second to Owens in the 200 meters was another American named Mack Robinson — who was Jackie Robinson’s older brother.
10 | America won the first gold medal in modern Olympics history
Sort of. The first modern Olympics were in 1896 in Greece, and an American track star won first place in the first event, the triple jump. Buuuuuut… at those Olympics, there were no gold medals. First place got a silver. Second place got a bronze. And third place, I assume, got a punch in the groin. Connolly has been retroactively upgraded to a gold; at the time, though, he got a silver. Which is like selling a million copies of your Faith +1 album and getting a myrrh record.
11 | The world record for competing in the most Olympics is 10
A Canadian named Ian Miller holds the world record for Olympic appearances. He debuted at the 1972 Summer Olympics and competed every year until 2012 (other than 1980, during the boycott). So how do you possibly attain that degree of athletic longevity? You make the horse do all the work.
Miller competes in equestrian events. And even though he was always involved, he rarely ever medaled. In 10 Olympics, he won exactly one medal: A silver in team jumping in 2008.