The 1972 Games is probably best known as the blackest day in Olympic history because of the terrorist siege in the athlete’s village where 17 people were killed including 11 Israeli athletes.
7,134 (6,075 men, 1,059 women) competitors from 121 nations participated in 22 sports and 195 events over a fortnight. The battle between USSR & USA continued with USSR winning 50 gold medals against USA’s 33. The host nation took up a common position and was 3rd.
Swimming (which took place in the first week of the Games, before the hostage crisis) dominated the glamour attention with both the King and Queen of the Games. The king was undoubtedly American swimmer Mark Spitz won a record seven gold medals, four individual and three relay events, and all in world record time. Added to the two gold medals he won in 1968, Spitz’s tally of nine gold medals equalled the record jointly shared by Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina. The queen was Australia’s Shane Gould, a 15-year-old who won three gold, one silver and one bronze medal, all in individual events. Another global star was Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, who became known as the Munchkin of Munich. The 17-year-old won three gold medals and her personal charm, flair and grace turned artistic gymnastics into a global television spectacle, as live broadcasts reached more people and nations than ever before.
The games also saw eras of domination cease. The US men’s basketball team suffered one of the most surprising and controversial losses in Olympic history; entering the gold medal final against the USSR, the US had won eight consecutive gold medals and 62 straight matches. But after a last-second refereeing and timekeeping mistake, the Soviets scored a miracle basket to win 51-50. Another US domination ended when East German Wolfgang Nordwig won the men’s pole vault – the US had won all 16 gold medals since 1896.
Archery and handball returned to the Olympics.
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