The Most Memorable Olympic Track Moments in History – Part 2

The second part of our blog to highlight the most memorable modern moments of the Olympic Games touches on Seb Coe in 1980 and the sprinting duel in 1988 between Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson. Most of the highlights we have chosen are more modern purely because of the media coverage that went viral across the globe.

1980 – 1500 Meters – Sebastian Coe vs Steve Ovett

Sebastian Coe vs Steve Ovett

One of the greatest ever middle-distance rivalries was between two British athletes, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett. The normal hysterical British press fueled the anticipated battle between these two titans of middle distance runners to fever pitch.

The duel was held in Moscow at the 1980 Olympics, and the two runners faced up against each other. The two athletes could not have been more different, Coe was from a privileged background and had a dedicated father who nurtured his career. On the other hand, Steve Ovett was the champion of the working classes and had to fight his way to the top.

Coe was expected to win the first event as it was his favorite 800 meters, but in the final, it was Ovett that was triumphant. Coe had his tactics all wrong and was bitterly disappointed, so much so he could only offer expletives as an excuse after the race. Even his father was quoted as saying Seb ran like an absolute idiot.

The notorious British press slammed Coe, and more or less wrote him off for the fifteen hundred meters. It was in this toxic environment that Coe produced one of the performances of his life, and in the last one hundred meters kicked ahead and won the race. In a couple of days, he went from rock bottom to the pinnacle of achievement.

1988 – 100 Meters – Carl Lewis vs Ben Johnson

Like a prequel to a boxing bout, the big news of this fiercely anticipated hundred-meter dash was played out in front of the cameras. And it was not with any of the action on the track, the shock news was the failure of Johnson to pass a required drug test. The race and the Olympic Games had been tarnished in front of the whole world.

The actual race was incredible, but it is hard to enjoy replays of the event as the viewer cannot possibly measure the extent of the enhancement of the drugs on Johnson’s performance. The stripping of his gold medal became another hammer blow for the sport that had been dogged with drug related problems.

Everybody was stunned when the world’s fastest man was stripped of his medal and questions were being asked how far did doping infiltrate athletics?

The Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 saw many great performances and notable efforts, but all these monumental achievements were overshadowed by the doping scandal. It seemed incredible that cheating and corruption could have possibly contaminated the world of athletics to the highest level possible, the Olympic Games Men’s 100 Meters Final, which is the blue ribbon running event on the planet. Although this is not a particularly pleasant memory, it is definitely a momentous Olympic moment.