Date Published: 19th August 2016

It’s hard not to get into the Olympic spirit during Rio 2016. But even the most devout Olympics-watchers amongst us may not  know these 8 bizarre happenings from Brazil’s sporting event.


1 – US gymnasts’ leotards are covered in Swarovski crystals


Simple lycra is not enough for Team USA. At this tournament, many of the women gymnasts’ leotards are adorned with nearly 5,000 Swarovski crystals – thought to be down to the principle of ‘look good, feel good’.


In 2008, Nastia Liukin’s leotard for the Beijing games had 184 crystals on it, and in 2012, Gabby Douglas had 1,188 on hers. The American gymnastic team have now quadrupled this, but glam lyrca doesn’t come cheap; the bling outfits are thought to cost $1,200 each.


2 – There are lifeguards at all Olympic swimming events


You wouldn’t expect an Olympic swimmer to need saving from drowning – or to be told off for splashing around. Yet Brazilian law insists that swimming pools over a certain size are watched over by lifeguards, regardless of the evidently exceptional swimming ability of its users. As a result of this law, there are 75 on duty at the various Olympic centres during swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, water polo and white-water kayaking events.


While there isn’t exactly much for Olympic lifeguards to do, they do have prime view of the action. Plus it’s also reported they get paid for their ‘work’ – however it is only £130 a week.


3. Victory flowers have been replaced by mysterious squiggly trophies


At previous Olympics, athletes who made the podium were handed a bouquet of flowers. However in Rio, this is not the case; apparently cut flowers are not very sustainable (who knew?).  At this years’ games, competitors are handed a multi-coloured object with a green base.

It turns out, contrary to speculation, this object is neither a paperweight or a napkin holder. In fact, it’s a 3D model of the official Rio Olympics logo, and it reportedly doubles as a medal holder.


4. US athletes have to pay tax on medals


Olympic glory comes at a cost – if you’re American, at any rate. Michael Phelps’s five gold medals from Rio, plus his one silver, could cost him up to $55,000 (£42,000) in taxes, it has been estimated.

This is mainly because the US Olympic Committee awards prize money to medal winners – $25,000 (£16,000) for gold, $15,000 (£10,000) for silver, and $10,000 (£6,000) for bronze – and this is considered taxable income by the US Internal Revenue Service. Many other countries give medal bonuses – Singapore’s Joseph Schooling, it’s reported, will get $753,000 (£573,000) for his gold.

However, in the US the medals are also given a value and taxed, based on the value of the materials they are made of. According to Forbes magazine, a 500g gold medal from Rio is worth $564 (£429), because it is mostly silver, plated with only 6g of gold. Silver medals are worth roughly $300 (£228), and bronze medals, which are mostly made of copper, only about $4 (£3).


5. Cyclists have their sock length measured


Under rules introduced in 2012 by Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body of sports cycling, socks must not exceed the mid-distance between the ankle and the knee – thus leading to the odd sight of cyclists having their socks measured prior to competing.


The reasoning behind this is to prevent the use of compression socks, which it’s thought can aid recovery and boost performance.


6. There are more bronze medals available than gold or silver


At the Rio Olympics, there are 812 gold medals to be won, 812 silver – but 864 bronze. How come?


With some sports it’s very simple. In doubles badminton, for instance, only one pair can win bronze, so the two semi-finalists face each other in a play-off to decide who gets it. In golf, a play-off is held in the event of a tie.


But in some events, such as boxing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling, there are two bronze medals. In some cases, a bronze goes to each eliminated semi-finalist. In others, there’s what’s called a repechage, where those knocked out by the eventual winners are placed in two separate pools, and compete among themselves for one of two bronzes.


7. Engagements are happening all over the place


The first proposal came during week one, when Olympic rugby sevens venue worker Marjorie Enya asked Brazil player Isadora Cerullo to marry her.

Later,  British race walker Tom Bosworth asked boyfriend Harry Dineley for his hand in marriage.

After USA’s Will Claye won silver in the triple jump, he leapt into the crowd and proposed to his girlfriend Queen Harrison.

Team GB’s Charlotte Dujardin also received a proposal – sort of. Her fiance Dean Golding held a sign in the crow which read “Can we get married now?”. Dujardin went on to win gold in dressage, and confirmed in her interview afterwards that she had already said yes.

The most controversial proposal came from Chinese diver Qin Kai, who proposed to diver girlfriend He Zi straight after she won silver in the women’s 3m springboard silver. Critics say this was bad form as it took the attention away from Zi’s achievement, whereas others thought the gesture was sweet.


8. Toilet fishing is banned


Signs displayed by Olympic authorities prohibit a number of toilet activities, one of which appears to be toilet fishing. The photograph of the sign, posted by US basketballer Elena Della Donne, shows the disallowed activities, including an image of a stick figure holding a fishing rod over a toilet.


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