The First-Ever "Instant" Replay Contested Win?—1936 Road Cycling in Berlin
The 1936 Olympic games were pretty crazy to begin with. Held in Berlin against the backdrop of an ever-intensifying Nazi regime, they very nearly didn’t happen due to proposed boycotts by the US and countries all over Europe. But despite ubiquitous swastikas, anti-Semitism, and racist propaganda, Hitler managed to temporarily downplay his extremist agenda long enough to secure protesting nations' involvement.
In the 100km road race (the men’s 100km road race—women still weren’t in Olympic cycling yet), first place came down to a neck-and-neck finish between two French cyclists, Guy Lapebie and Robert Charpentier. Charpentier passed Lapebie in the last 100m and edged him out by .02 seconds for the gold medal. But here’s what else was unique about this particular Olympics, aside from all the Nazi regalia: It was the first Olympic Games to be filmed for a documentary feature. Acclaimed director Leni Riefenstahl, best known for the Hitler propaganda piece Triumph of the Will, filmed the 1936 Games for a feature called Olympia.
When the feature was released in France, Lapebie was able to watch his finish in a theater—and what he saw gave him reason to believe he had been robbed of gold. It was likely the first incidence of something like instant replay, though the “instant” part is laughable. There, on the big screen, he saw Charpentier tug his shorts backward right before pulling ahead at the finish line. Charpentier, of course, denied it—and youtube reviewings prove inconclusive as to what happened between the two French teammates at the end of that race. But Lapebie remained forever certain.
“From the day I saw that film, I considered myself the moral victor of the Olympic Games,” Lapebie said.
Maybe Don't Start a 10-Hour Race in the Middle of the Night—1912 Road Cycling in Stockholm
After Stockholm, planners decided to scrap the city’s velodrome to build an Olympic stadium, the world’s best racers began to fear cycling would be nixed from the 1912 Games altogether. And it very nearly was—without a velodrome, track cycling was obviously out, but Swedish Olympic Authorities wanted to cancel the road event as well, arguing that the roads weren’t in appropriate condition. Needless to say, this didn’t go over so well internationally and several countries began to protest.