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No matter how well coordinated the Olympics have become over the decades since their modern debut, the Games have not escaped their share of embarrassing hoaxes and gaffes.
Fake Olympic torches? Booking a deceased musician to perform at the Games? Wrong flag? Here’s a list of moments that made Olympic officials blush.
Olympic flame goes out, again and again
As the biggest symbol of the Games, the torch is no stranger to flameouts either accidental or deliberate. As far back as 1976 when a strong gust of wind extinguished the Olympic flame in Montreal, Canada—only to be relit by a worker with a lighter—there have been many more documented instances of torch snuff outs as it travels to its destination. Take the torch relay for the 2014 Sochi Games, for example, as it made its way from Moscow to Sochi in late 2013. The Russian-made torch extinguished on its way to Sochi as many as 44 times, according to The Moscow Times, which was blamed on manufacturing defects.
1956 Olympic flame hoax
Barry Larkin is on the books as the prankster who pulled off the ultimate Olympic flame stunt. During the 1956 Olympics torch relay in Melbourne, Australia, Larkin carried a fake torch, lit it up and ran to deliver it to city mayor Pat Hills at the Sydney Town Hall. Unsuspecting spectators and police mistook him as the official runner—the real one was actually delayed—and escorted Larkin to Hills who then took the torch and immediately began his speech. Moments later, a staffer whispered into Hills’ ear that the torch was a fake. Larkin made a clean getaway and into Olympic history.
The Who drummer asked to perform, 34 years after his death
Very few moments are as embarrassing as the time Olympic officials attempted to book former Who drummer Keith Moon for the 2012 London Olympic ceremony. Moon, who struggled with drugs and alcohol in the 1970s, died of an overdose in 1978. But Olympic officials didn’t seem to know that, so they contacted the band’s manager, Bill Curbishley, in an attempt to get the drummer to play with the surviving members.
Peace doves burned alive in Seoul 1988
There’s a reason you don't see many white doves flying during the Opening Ceremony. During 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, a group of ceremonial doves were released and flew to the nearby cauldron. Moments later as the flame was ignited, the world watched in horror as some of the birds burned alive.
Wrong flag, it’s the other Korea
Talk about mixup. During the 2012 London Olympics, the North Korea women’s soccer team was erroneously introduced with the South Korea flag just moments before its match against Colombia. The team was so outraged that it walked off the field in protest for more than an hour until organizers formally apologized for the error.