The Iraq football team’s unexpected advance into the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament prompted George W. Bush to hold up the country’s success in a party political broadcast. “During these Games we have another free nation, one terrorist regime less” he trumpeted. Iraq’s coach Adnan Hamad was not convinced. “We cannot speak of a free nation. We do not have freedom in Iraq only an occupying army. We are living through one of the worst periods of our history”, was his reply.

Greek roulette

Two policemen charged with guarding the mountain bike velodrome decided to stage their very own ‘Olympic competition’ to while away the hours involving a gun, one bullet, and alternate pulling of the trigger. As one of the men fell to the floor ina pool of blood, the other was not awarded a medal. A government investigation, which has so far referred to the incident as an ‘accident’, is under way.

Tainted victory

The Athens 2004 Games saw four medal winners disqualified on doping charges. Despite strong protests as to his innocence, Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis was stripped of his bronze, leading to a series of stamps bearing his image being withdrawn. Hungarian Robert Kazekas had to hand back his discus gold and Russia’s Irina Korzhanenko lost her shotput gold. Last in the sin bin was women’s triple-jump winner Francoise Mbango. Many other competitors were sent home having been caught long before reaching medal contention.

The first ever official case of an athlete taking banned substances occurred in Mexico 1968 when Sweden’s Hans-Gunnar Liljenvall was excluded from the Modern Pentathlon. Since then, a further 11 athletes have lost their medals, Ben Johnson’s sprint gold at Seoul in 1988 being the most prominent of these.

In hot water

Australian rower, Sally Robbins, downed her oars in exhaustion with 500m. to go of her Olympic final. Unfortunately, she was part of an eight-woman crew in the same boat who subsequently struggled to finish fifth. The mildest reaction of her team-mates was to threaten to throw Robbins into the water and she will be forced to concentrate on single sculls for a while, even Prime Minister John Howard got involved in the row.