The Olympics: That time every two years (though some who prefer one season’s games over the other tend to only pay attention every 4 years) when one city is lucky (or unlucky) enough to become the focus of global attention and scrutiny. Athletes from all over the world compete for the gold, and at least a few moments of utter failure and humiliation are magnified by the international stage on which they are set. As viewers, we can feel both elation and national pride when our teams make their way to victory – and magnificent schadenfreude when those we root against for whatever reason fail in a spectacular way. Here are some moments that stand out from the Olympics over the years:
Denys Yurchenko Takes One for the Team
Sometimes bad timing is just bad timing. Though Ukrainian pole-vaulter Denys Yurchenko had success during the 2008 Beijing games, where he won the bronze medal in his sport, the 2000 Sydney Olympics weren’t as kind. Living up to the well-worn expression “to fall on one’s own sword,” the athlete falls junk-first onto his own pole. Is this something pole-vaulters train to avoid? Does this even happen that frequently at all? It seems that, in spite of what looks like a fine attempt at clearing the bar, Yurchenko just had some very bad luck. He lands, clutching his genitals with an excruciating look on his face while the entire world looks on. One hopes that the athlete’s greater success later on allowed him to appreciate this moment for the slapstick spectacle that it was.
Rebecca Soni Breaks Swimming Record, Also Breaks Wind
Here’s one you can feel a little bit better laughing at, seeing as it doesn’t end in someone clutching himself while in excruciating pain. In fact, there isn’t even a loss to go with this one, just a good old-fashioned fart joke. So, there’s no reason to feel bad for Rebecca Soni. The 2012 games actually had her leaving with several gold medals and world records in tow. Impressively, she even became the first female EVER to defend her title in the 200-meter breaststroke. And chances are, that isn’t even an actual fart, but rather some trapped air escaping her suit. Still, the cluster of bubbles as caught by the cameras is perfectly framed to look like someone passing gas, and that’s what’s important.
Nastia Lyukin’s Faceplant
Sort of sad but funny, this happened during the 2012 Olympic trials. What tends to be comical about gymnastic fails (and there are so many fails in the sport that pages of “gymnastic fail” compilations can easily be found on YouTube) is how the failure usually follows a display of athletic ability that we as the viewers can only imagine being capable of doing. Former champion Nastia Lyukin is agile as ever while twirling around the bar, making her fall (caused partially by her father/coach’s poor spotting) all the more shocking. It’s a direct belly flop, and in terms of physical comedy, it’s pitch-perfect. At the end of an Olympic career, however, it’s an unfortunate note to go out on.
This Sad American Flag Fail
Here we have this incredibly patriotic moment from the London ceremonies, totally undercut by a minor malfunction. As the National Anthem reaches a powerful crescendo, with flags slowly being airlifted above the crowd, the American flag is set loose, sadly falling to the sounds of laughter. Though the Star Spangled Banner still builds in the background, the only thing you’ll be able to imagine in your head while looking at this picture is the sound of a sad trombone wah-wah-ing.
Boris Johnson Gets Suspended
With all of the pressure placed on athletes during the Olympics, a laugh at their expense can be met with a twinge of guilt. Thankfully, non-athletes can also find themselves in embarrassing situations during the games. Just look at Boris Johnson. Now largely known to those outside of the UK for his role in the “Brexit” campaign, the conservative British politician was also the subject of an especially comical Olympics blunder during the 2012 London Games. This floppy-haired cartoon of a man got caught suspended in the air while riding a zip line over Victoria Park. It wouldn’t even be that funny if he hadn’t made the choice to wear a silly hard hat and wave two flags around, drawing even more attention than necessary to his flailing body.