- Participating nations: 92
- Number of athletes: 6,028 (4,781 men - 1,247 women)
- Time of year: July 17 - August 1
- Number of events: 198
The Olympic Summer Games had now entered a very turbulent period. The acts of terror in Munich cast a dark shadow over the Games and called for the massive increase in security measures that we have since learned to live with. Nations boycotting the Games had now also become a reality. And the South Africa issue was hotter than ever.
The African countries wanted to exclude New Zealand since the country still had sports connections to South Africa. What triggered everything was that a rugby team from New Zealand had toured South Africa. The IOC claimed that they could not apply any sanctions against New Zealand because rugby was not on the Olympic program. This resulted in 27 countries, most of them African, boycotting the Games completely and four more countries leaving the Games before they were over.
From a sports perspective, these actions had major consequences in some events. Primarily in the incomplete athletics stadium, but also in the boxing ring.
92 nations competed in the Games in Montreal, which had huge financial problems. The main arena was never completed and all the costs for the Games became bigger than what had been estimated. Many, many years after the Games, the people of Montreal have had to pay for the enormous economical failure through their taxes.
The Number of Swedish Points Was Cut In Half
The Swedes took four gold and one silver medal and 18th place in the nation ranking.
The number of point taken by the Swedish team was cut in half compared to the Games in Munich, but despite this there was no talk of a Swedish fiasco, even though the first week resulted in very little in terms of successes for the Swedish team. But then things started happening, the team took five medals in as many days.
The gold medals which continue to shine the brightest are of course Anders Gärderud´s gold winning race on the 3,000 m steeplechase and Bernt Johansson´s spectacular victory on the cycling road race.
The other two gold medals, which have been somewhat overshadowed by the two stars´ performances, came in the team event of the epée fencing and through tempest yachtsmen John Albrechtson and Ingvar Hansson.
After beating two world records in 1974, Anders Gärderud was one of the favorites on the 3,000 m steeplechase. But he wasn´t known for having what it takes on big championships, despite having taken the silver at the European Championships in 1974 in Rome.
This was Anders´s third Olympic Games and many pessimists made sure to remind people of his previous, failed, Olympic attempts. When he injured a thigh muscle the week before his first start the pessimists got even louder. But the injury forced the fit runner to “rest himself into shape".
Anders had never been known to be a man of tactical skills, but this time that was never a problem.
No Tactical ProblemsWith a 300-meter long spurt, Anders crushed all his competitors, especially East Germany´s Baumgarti and Malinowski, from Poland. At the last hurdle, Anders was in the lead, but Baumgarti was right beside his. The East German made one last attempt to gather strength, but he couldn´t make over the hurdle and fell. Anders was able to win one second before Malinowski, who was lucky enough not to trip over poor Baumgarti.
Anders´s time was 8:08.02 - a world record! It was Sweden´s first Olympic athletics gold medal since London 1948.
On the 26th of July, a Monday, it was time for another gold medal and for four hours, 46 minutes and 52 seconds a whole world was spellbound by the drama of the cycling road race, which was on TV. Bernt Johansson became one of the best known and most appreciated medallists.
The course was 12,5 kilometers long and the race consisted of 14 laps. On the second lap a small group had broken loose and this is were Bernt Johansson for the first, but not the last, time introduces himself to the television audience. Bernt was the one who made sure that the main bunch caught up with the breakaway riders.
After half the race, on the seventh lap, it was once again time for Bernt to make sure that the distance to a new breakaway bunch didn´t become too big. This led to the formation of a leading bunch consisting of fourteen cyclists. On the tenth lap, Bernt increased the speed a little bit, not intending to break away. But the increased speed meant that only two other cyclists had the capacity to follow Bernt, they were the Italian Martinelli and the Pole Nowicki. Nowicki had no intention of helping Bernt keep up the speed since he had his countryman Szurkowski, ready to top his career with an Olympic gold medal, in the main bunch.
Unexpected BreakawayWhen the bell rang to mark the beginning of the final lap, the leading bunch consisted of ten cyclists. After an Italian cyclist had tried to break away, Bernt decided to make a move, but the others soon caught up with him. But the Swede didn´t give up and instead made a new attempt to break away. The only one to have the strength to follow him was Nowicki who had plenty of energy left, he hadn´t been in a pulling position at any time during the race. When Nowicki caught up with Bernt, the Swede decided to pick up the pace once more. This came as a surprise to the Pole who didn't think Bernt would have the guts to break away one more time.
Bernt´s last move came when there were five kilometers to go and this part of the race became a TV-thriller of a kind you don´t see very often. The TV footage sometimes made it look like the bunch was gaining on Bernt, but he managed to stay ahead and the scenes, depicting Bernts entrance into the finish area, escorted by police on motorcycles, and his turning around to discover that he is all alone, have become classic.
Bernt cracked a big smile which was broadcast all over the world, and he then shook his head in disbelief at the prospect of winning an Olympic gold medal. But the last short distance was free from competitors, they didn´t arrive until 31 seconds later.
The Swedish epée fencers came to Montreal with great expectations. Rolf Edling had become World Champion in the individual competition in 1973 and 1974, and the team had won the title in 1974 and 1975. Sweden met Hungary in the semi-final. Leif Högström became a big hero by defeating Kulcar, the bronze medallist from the individual competition, and taking the Swedish team to the final where they would meet West Germany.
When Sweden was behind by 1-2, Göran Flodström suffered an injury and Calle von Essen had to step in. Rolf Edling ended the exciting final by giving Sweden a lead by eight matches versus five for the Germans, a lead impossible for the Germans to do anything about.
The fourth Swedish gold medal went to the tempest yachtsmen John Albrechtsson and Ingvar Hansson. They came in fourth place in Munich, but this time everything went their way. They won the class by a good margin after a 4-1-2-1-7-2-1 series.
Knape Does It AgainThe fifth Swedish medal, a silver, went to the diver Ulrika Knape. She was going to defend the high diving title she had won in Munich. But for a long time, no one knew if she was going to be able to dive, she had a displaced vertebra in her neck. There was a lot of speculation in the Swedish media about whether or not she´d be able to make it. Naturally, she was in a lot of pain, the Swedish medical and massage teams had to work hard to get her back to the level at which she would be able to compete. Considering the conditions under which Ulrika had to compete, “only" getting the silver medal was a huge accomplishment. Ulrika was able to retire with an excellent record. One Olympic gold medals, two Olympic silver medals and titles from World, European, Nordic, Swedish and regional championships.
The Swedes didn´t take any medals in the typically Swedish events, wrestling and canoeing, but they placed well in both sports.
At the international level, the Montreal Games were dominated by the top three nation - the Soviet Union, East Germany and the United States.
The Soviet Union won the competition between the nations, ahead of East Germany and the United States. When counting only the medal-winning positions, The Americans beat the East Germans. The country of 17 million citizens had become very successful. East Germany was particularly successful in women´s sports and many people wondered about the reason for this incredible domination. In athletics, the East German women took eleven gold medals, the men took two. The swimming resulted in eleven gold medals for the women and none for the men.
RumorsThere was a lot of talk in the hallways about the use of illegal substances, but nothing could be proven and all the test result came back negative. It wasn't until after the fall of the Berlin wall that the systematic and scientific use of doping in East German sports could be proven.But Montreal did have its sports highlights. Romania´s 14-year-old gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, put a spell not only on the audience, but on a whole world of television viewers with her performances. For the first time in Olympic history, the judges gave out ten points, the highest score possible, for her achievements. 10.0 could be seen on the score board, not only once, but six times. Her gold medals on the balance beam and the uneven bars are classic shows, but these two gold medals were not enough. She also took the “heavyweight" title, the all-around competition, an event in which the gymnastics queen from the Games in Munich, Olga Korbut, took fifth place. Nadia Comaneci also took bronze in the floor exercises. In the jumping, however, she just missed the winner´s stand and took fourth place.
The swimming queen of the Games was Kornelia Ender, East Germany, who won three individual gold medals, one relay gold medal and one relay silver medal.
Her gold medals on the 100 m butterfly and the 200 m freestyle are among the “sweatier" performances ever to take place in and around an Olympic pool. The two finals were only twenty minutes apart and Ender used the marching back and forth between the prize ceremonies to stretch!
Ender and Comaneci were the “Queens of the Games", but there were a number of men competing for the title of “King of the Games".
Many aspirantsThe Russian gymnast Nikolaj Andrianov took the largest number of medals, four gold, two silver and one bronze medal. But he was never surrounded by any real hysteria. He had to remain in the background, overshadowed by Comaneci, and consequently had a hard time reaching out to a large audience despite all the medals.
He had to share the title with Finland´s Lasse Virén who defended his gold medals on the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. In the 5,000 m final he worked his worst competitor, New Zealander Dick Quax, so hard for the last kilometer that Quax was too tired to start his well-known spurt. The 10,000 meters was an easy victory for the favorite who took control of the race with one lap to go.
On the track, there was another man who could also make claims to the throne - the Cuban Alberto Juantorena. He became the first person to win the gold on both the 400 and 800 meters during the same Olympic Games. Many had come close before, but Juantorena was the first to succeed. No one stood a chance against Juantorena´s long powerful leap.
Yet another Cuban with similar claims was the boxer Teofilo Stevenson. He had no problem defending his Munich heavyweight title with his elegant boxing style. Olympic boxing champions usually, more or less automatically, go on to professional boxing and the chance to make millions of dollars, but Stevenson remained loyal to amateur boxing, and to Cuba.