Tears and joy: Capturing Olympic history on camera

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The Rio de Janeiro Olympics kick off on Friday for some two weeks of competitive games drawing athletes as well as audiences from around the world.

As they prepare to cover the event, Reuters photographers look back on their favorite pictures from past Olympics where they captured the action on the ground as well as the participants' tears and joy that followed.

Check out their favorite Olympic moments:

9 PHOTOS
Photographers favorite Olympic photos
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Photographers favorite Olympic photos
Jamaica's Usain Bolt (R) celebrates with Britain's Mo Farah on the podium after each receiving gold medals, Bolt for men's 4x100m relay and Farah for men's 5000m, at the victory ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Britain August 11, 2012. Eddie Keogh: "'So who wants to photograph all the medallists?Ã Silence. It was the final meeting of the Reuters photo team that would cover all the Athletics at the Olympic Stadium. I was in a room of world class photographers and the medals had my name written all over it. Funnily enough doing the medals produced one of the most iconic pictures of the London Olympics when Usain Bolt met Mo Farah after receiving his Gold medal for winning the 5000m. Usain suggested they swap poses. It was a lovely moment, a historic picture and I was a very happy man when I saw the pictures on the screen of my camera." REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Britain's Paula Radcliffe cries in a vehicle after retiring from the women's marathon in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in Greece August 22, 2004. Yannis Behrakis: "The 2004 Olympics was a very special assignment for me since Athens is my town. The women's marathon was not an event I was initially going to cover. In fact, I had the morning off. On the morning of August 22, a colleague called me frantically to tell me that he had information that the favourite to win the race, the British athlete Paula Radcliffe, had retired about seven kilometres before the end of the 42km race. I took my equipment, jumped on my moped and drove through back roads and alleys - as all roads were blocked by police - to the place about ten blocks north of my home in Athens. When I arrived, Radcliffe was trying to continue the race but she looked totally overwhelmed by the heat and humidity. At some point she sat on a pavement crying. I shot some pictures, trying my very best not to be intrusive, she seemed lost and unaware. A few supporters holding British flags tried to comfort her. Shortly afterward a special vehicle arrived to collect her and a couple of other athletes. When she entered the vehicle, I guess, she had finally realised that it was all over and at that moment she collapsed. I shot two frames through the window." REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
Michael Phelps (C) of the U.S. swims the butterfly stroke during his team's victory in the men's 4x100 meters medley relay at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympics in China August 17, 2008. Wolfgang Rattay: "Phelps was expected to beat the gold medal record of U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz, who won seven golds during the 1972 Munich Olympics. I bought the 8mm round shot lens for this particular picture. I wanted to mark his new record by making him look like he was swimming above the globe. I set the camera up in the pool and pointed it straight upwards to make the dividing ropes between the lanes look like the longitudinal lines of the earth. When Phelps swam over my camera I shot the image with a remote release. The effect I had long planned worked out perfectly." REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay 
Micronesia's Manuel Minginfel drops weights on the men's 62kg Group B weightlifting competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Britain July 30, 2012. Dominic Ebenbichler: "I shot the picture with a robot remote camera which was fixed on the roof and that I triggered from the ground. The difficult part is to set it up prior to each weight lifting event. You have to preset the focus and shutter speed and as the athletes are not all the same size, a little bit of luck is involved as to whether the picture will be sharp. In this case everything came together perfectly: Minginfel dropped his weights and gestured upwards, we had set the focus on just the right position and what a result!" REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler 
Britain's Mo Farah reacts as he wins the men's 5000m final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Britain August 11, 2012. Lucy Nicholson: "When Mo Farah was rounding the final corner for the 5000m the huge stadium was electric, everybody was on their feet and he knew he was going to win as he came into that final stretch. All the photographers were excited because we knew he was going to react in a very dramatic way so it was a lovely sequence of photos as he crossed the finish line - he put his hands over his head, he wrapped himself in the British flag, it was a very long celebration sequence, which is all you can really wish for as a photographer." REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
Louis Smith of Great Britain cries during the men's gymnastics qualification in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games in Britain July 28, 2012. Dylan Martinez: "During the long build up to the London Olympics all eyes were on a few of the gold medal hopes - I remember the pressure on them growing as we got closer to the opening ceremony. The British gymnastics team had a few high profile members but none more so than pummel star Louis Smith. I had photographed him at past championships and was always impressed by his focus. So with music blaring and a sell out crowd cheering, Louis steps up and absolutely nails his routine - as he came off the pummel it was as if pressure of the last few years suddenly lifted from his shoulders and he could finally breath again. He sat down and somehow oblivious to all around himà a couple of tears roll down his cheek and luckily for me he was sitting in front of some rings... But the best thing about this photograph is Louis Smith told me it was his favourite picture of the whole Olympics. Both him and his mother have a large print on their living room to walls." REUTERS/Dylan Martinez 
Germany's Robert Harting celebrates after winning the men's discus throw final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Britain August 7, 2012. Kai Pfaffenbach: "It was difficult to shoot the picture as Harting played cat and mouse with the few in-field photographers who were allowed to follow him on his honour lap. He did the shirt thing twice before at world championships so none of the photographers wanted to miss the opportunity. I was lucky for a moment before another photographer, who came in too late, ruined everybody else's pictures." REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach 
Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia competes during the women's pole vault final of the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in China August 18, 2008. Mike Blake: "I was covering the medals at the track-and-field and in between medal presentations I would throw on a long lens and try and shoot different events that were going on. This picture is of the Russian pole vaulter who actually won the gold medal." REUTERS/Mike Blake 
An athlete runs past a statue during his last lap in men's marathon of Athens Olympic Games August 29, 2004. Damir Sagolj: "Both (the) men and women's marathon of 2004 Olympic Games in Athens ended at Panathenaic Stadium, which is (a) historical old stadium that hosted many cultural and sport activities over the centuries. The stadium itself has two historical statues just where athletes are about to make the final turn before crossing the finish line and I climbed the tribune to have a clean shot of the statues and athletes. I shot (the) picture using a longer shutter speed so the athlete, the marathon runner, is blurred and the white timeless statue remained in focus. " REUTERS/Damir Sagolj 
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Some of the most memorable shots include an underwater picture of American Michael Phelps swimming the butterfly stroke during the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Britain's Louis Smith crying during the men's gymnastics qualification during the London 2012 Games.

One photo also shows Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and Britain's distance runner Mo Farah celebrating together after receiving gold medals in London.

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