The London Olympics have been brimming with exhilarating “wins.” Wunderkind backstroker Missy Franklin won gold at the tender age of 17. The stellar female gymnastics squad creamed the international competition. Michael Phelps made Olympic history. But far too often, the 2012 Games have made more headlines for embarrassing gaffes, frustrating fails, and boneheaded controversies. Here’s a look at some of the biggest.
The Today Show Promo Fail
If backlash were an Olympic sport, NBC would win the gold medal by a record margin after the heat it’s received for its controversial insistence on airing the Games’ major events on tape delay. The decision is upsetting spoilerphobes who are discovering the results before they can view them on NBC in primetime through avenues like new websites, Twitter ... and apparently NBC itself. The network made a major goof Monday night when, minutes before airing the time-delayed finals of the 100m backstroke featuring teen phenom Missy Franklin, it ran a promo for Tuesday morning’s episode of Today spoiling Franklin’s gold-medal win. “When you’re 17 years old and win your first gold medal, there’s nobody you’d rather share it with,” the promo teased, before showing footage of Franklin with her parents, ruining the race that would soon follow. The network has since apologized.
The Empty Seats Fail
Tickets to the most popular events at the London Olympics reportedly were such hot commodities that thousands of sports fans’ requests for seats were denied. So imagine the rejected lot’s outrage when, having been forced to watch on TV from their couches at home, footage showed row upon row of empty seats at banner events like swimming and gymnastics. Rumors began swirling that the tickets had been left for corporate sponsors who couldn’t be bothered to turn up, leaving the public at home—and fuming. The next day British troops and schoolchildren were given free tickets to fill the empty rows.
The South Korean Flag Fail
Having your name announced over the loud speaker at the Olympics while your country’s flag is prominently displayed on the stadium JumboTron should be among the proudest moments of an Olympian’s career—which explains the North Korean women’s soccer team’s miffed reaction when officials mistakenly displayed South Korea’s flag throughout the stadium during pre-match player introductions last week. The North Korean squad refused to take the field until the flap was corrected and South Korea’s largely white flag was replaced with images of North Korea’s unmistakably red banner. North Korea ended up winning the match, outscoring Colombia 2–0.
The Michael Phelps Tape-Delay Fail
Temper tantrums over NBC’s maddening tape-delayed Olympic coverage are nothing new, as Gawker helpfully points out. But credit Twitter, the rise of digital media, or what have you: The outrage over the network’s broadcasting of the 2012 Games is escalating like never before. The din of despair began loud and early when the network refused to air the most anticipated event of the games, the 400-meter individual medley race showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, live. When the race proved more dramatic than pundits even predicted—Lochte scored gold while Phelps finished a shocking fourth—everyone from media analysts to NBA star Dirk Nowitzki ribbed NBC for its boneheaded decision to make viewers wait until primetime (and until after the results had been spoiled) to watch.
The Lights-Out Fail
It’s a modern Olympic tradition for the cauldron containing the Olympic flame to burn bright above the host city’s biggest stadium for the duration of the Games’ 16 days. London organizers, however, kindled controversy with the decision to keep its cauldron stationed inside Olympic Park, a location where only paying ticket holders to track and field competitions can see it. Worse, to shift the flame from the center of the stadium to its present location, organizers were forced to extinguish the fire temporarily—an extremely rare action for a host city to take. The last time the ceremonial flame was put out was at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, but that snuff was an accident caused by an unwelcome rainstorm.
The Where-Are-the-Keys? Fail
We’ve all been there … but we’re also not the organizers of the world’s largest sporting event. All the internal locks at Wembley Stadium, the arena that will host the Olympic football finals next week, had to be changed Monday after it was determined that police responsible for security had lost the keys. Scotland Yard detectives were quickly on the scene to determine if there was a security breach and to investigate if the keys had been stolen, but it was soon discovered that there was no reason for alarm, only embarrassment: the officers were simply unable to find them.
The Flying Bell Fail
“How confident are you things will go off without a hitch?” Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was asked just prior to a bell-ringing ceremony in London to celebrate the kick-off of the London Games on Friday. “There are always one or two teething problems. But I’m very confident we’re ready ...” he responded, before picking up a bell, giving it an enthusiastic shake, and watching helplessly as the golden ringer broke off its handle and flew into a crowd of bystanders, hitting a person off-camera. After it was determined that no one was hurt, Hunt later told BBC News of the incident, “It was a clanger, if you’ll forgive the pun.”
The Evander Holyfield Fail
With much of the world still buzzing Monday about the gloriously strange Opening Ceremony that London staged the Friday before, the Today show opted to produce a standard “man on the street” segment gauging reactions to the affair from tourists milling in front of Buckingham Palace. The show’s producers, however, failed to notice that one such man on the street interviewed in the clip was boxing great—and Olympic medalist—Evander Holyfield. Holyfield went unidentified in the segment, but, for the record, found the Opening Ceremony to be “wonderful.”