Top Ten Olympic Scandals and Tragedies

6 – Crowds Hiss at Polish Pole Vaulter (1980)

Polish athlete Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz shows his famous gesture to Soviet fans who booed him.

Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz, a Polish pole vaulter, won the Gold medal for his efforts in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.

The crowd had tried to distract and hinder his performance by booing and hissing him during his performance. In retaliation, Kozakiewicz gave the crowd a coarse gesture, using his hands and arms to demonstrate his disdain for the crowd and their attitude. This was the first example of an Olympic athlete turning on the crowd, and it represented a new low in sportsmanship, and in the respectfulness of Olympic spectators.

The Russians attempted to take his medal away for his “elbow gesture”, but they were unsuccessful. Many thought the gesture was also a statement about Russian control over Polish affairs, and the Polish people were ecstatic that the athlete should openly oppose the Russian people this way.

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