The 1956 Melbourne Olympics was a showcase of seething global tensions. Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon opted out in response to the Suez crisis; the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland boycotted the Soviet presence in the Games after the USSR crushed the Hungarian revolution; and China did not participate after Taiwan was allowed to under an alias.
But Olga Fikotová and Hal Connolly’s love-conquers-all story managed to rise above the animosity. Fikotová, a gold-medal Czechoslovak discus thrower and Connolly, an American with a gold medal in hammer throwing, met during the Games and continued their romance afterward, to a mixed reception.
“I returned home as the only gold-medal winner in the delegation, and at an official reception I was told that I brought from Melbourne 50% honor and 50% shame because I’d been running around with an American fascist,” Fikotová told the Financial Times last month. The reaction was a bit better for Connolly: then U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced, “We believe in love,” after the pair got engaged.
The pair wed in Prague in 1957 after receiving special permission from Czechoslovak President Antonín Zápotocký and had four children before divorcing in 1974.