We all know that mistakes
happen, and on the greatest stage of
all, that can be a bitter pill
to swallow. Whilst it might be common to
see athletes make mistakes at the Olympics, it’s not very
often that you see blunders from the people running
the show. But they can be just as prone
to mistakes as everyone else. Take Helsinki 1952,
for example. The 1,500 metres that year had
an extremely talented field. German Werner Lueg was the
joint world record holder and looked certain for victory. There was a young British man
named Roger Bannister in the field as well. He’d go on to be the first
person to run a mile in under four minutes. Everyone was surprised, then, when Joseph Barthel stormed
to take the lead. Barthel was from the tiny
European duchy of Luxembourg. Luxembourg isn’t really famous
for its sporting prowess. There aren’t many people
in Luxembourg either. Today, the population of
the country is 500,000. Back in 1952,
it was about half that amount. So it was more than a little
surprising to see Barthel racing to Luxembourg’s
first gold medal. Nobody was as surprised as the
members of the band, though. They really hadn’t expected
a Luxembourg win and they didn’t have a clue what the Luxembourg national
anthem sounded like. No-one quite knows what
the band DID play. But the occasion was enough
to reduce Barthel to tears. Whether that was down to
the emotion of the occasion or the band’s attempt
at the anthem remains open to interpretation. The Olympic Games has always
been keen on experimentation. Sports are added at every
Games, with some proving more
popular than others. Basketball was first introduced
as an official Olympic sport back in 1936, after it had been
a demonstration sport at the 1904 Games. As the sport was still
in its infancy, the German organisers were not
exactly sure what was required. Rather than the traditional
indoor courts, players were a little confused to
find themselves on a converted
tennis court. Playing on a mixture
of sand and clay made dribbling almost
impossible, which in turn made scoring
points unusually difficult. There was bad weather the night
before the match between the USA and Canada
in the final. The players found it hard
enough to run, let alone dribble. It was total chaos.
The final score? 19-8 to the USA, which has
the dubious honour of being the lowest ever score
at a complete Olympic match. It’s not always the organiser’s
fault when things go wrong, though. For the Melbourne Games in
1956, the Olympic torch was due to
pass through future Olympic city Sydney. The scheduled torch-carrier
that morning was running late. So it was with much relief for
the gathered crowds when they saw the torch-runner
finally appear. There, carried by a young man,
came the great Olympic torch. The torch was passed on and the
Mayor prepared to give his speech. It was then that somebody
mentioned to the Mayor there was
something wrong with the torch. Rather than the majestic
Olympic torch the crowds had been expecting, prankster Barry Larkin had brought something
unexpected. G’day, kids. So, on Make With Barry Larkin
today, we’re going to be showing you how you can make your very own
Olympic torch. Now, the usual Olympic torch is
a handcrafted thing of beauty transporting a flame lit
in the ancient site of Greece all the way to the Olympic
venue. But what we’re going to use
today is a chair leg. All right, so,
you stick your can on it here. Oh, yeah, we’ve got the basis
of a pretty good torch here! Of course, we don’t have
the Flame of Olympus with us, so instead we’re going to use
some of Keith’s underwear. – G’day, Keith.
– G’day. Ha! Now, Keith,
are these clean underwear? Not really, mate. Well, folks, I would suggest clean underwear
at the very least. Anyway… There you have it.
Your very own Olympic torch. Ha! Luckily, the ruse was quickly
discovered and the real Olympic torch
passed through the city
without further incident. All’s well that ends well. But the fact remains – for one beautiful moment
in 1956, the people of Sydney lined
the streets to gaze in hushed awe at a pair of flaming
underpants. And that’s the legacy left
by Barry Larkin, the original Olympic prankster.