At the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, to which Britain did not send a delegation but at which it did earn two medals by virtue of owning Ireland, the first-place finisher in the marathon, a New York City bricklayer, was disqualified for having covered eleven miles of the course by automobile. The runner-up, a British-Bostonian brazier competing for America, whose trainers had administered him strychnine and brandy and egg whites and who had been borne along by officials for part the race, was declared the victor. At the 2012 London Olympics, in a video clip shown during the opening ceremony, the comic actor Rowan Atkinson (as Mr. Bean) was digitally inserted into the beach run that opens Chariots of Fire; imagining the scene as a race, Atkinson flags, veers offscreen, then overtakes the other runners in a car, rejoining the pack just in time to win.
Such filmed-to-order interludes, which cutely recontextualize iconic personages for special occasions, are familiar from Academy Awards broadcasts, and their appearance in a live Olympic commencement marked conspicuously the London show’s direction by British filmmaker Danny Boyle. Read More