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Montreal 1976 - Overview

Nadia and the perfect 10

The Montreal Games would have left no great impression had it not been for the revelation of Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old Romanian gymnast who had a global audience of 500 million TV viewers quite simply spellbound.

Pale and seemingly emotionless she too appeared to be under some kind of spell, and there was certainly magic in her three gold medal winning performances, one of which earned her a sensational world first perfect score of ten.

Comaneci's astronomic ascent into the Olympic hall of fame then helped hide the two evils that befell the 1976 Games, namely crippling costs and shambolic construction delays for the host city and a string of political boycotts.

The IOC had hoped by awarding the Games to safe-bet Montreal that all the sporting elements of the Olympic movement would be restored. This, in effect, was wishful thinking.

Boycotts and debts

The stadium and all other accompanying facilities were still under construction at the opening ceremony and the colossal costs involved in staging the event provided ammunition for a hostile public and certain Canadian politicians. Delays, an increase in petrol prices due to the oil crisis, and other difficulties proved relevant stumbling blocks for Montreal.

A new IOC president, Ireland's Lord Killanin, was in place when a new cycle of boycotts kicked off. In total, 22 African delegations pulled out in protest at New Zealand's rugby tour of South Africa. Three days earlier, Taiwan pulled out because the Canadian government, who had been carrying out important negotiations with China, refused to recognise it as an independent nation.

As a mark of respect for the hostages killed in Munich four years earlier, the Israeli competitors wore a green feather.

Doping controls were reinforced with 1,500 tests conducted. On the field of play, there were certain defining moments, but in all it was not regarded as an extraordinary Olympiad.

There were triumphs for Cuba's Alberto Juantorena (400m and 800m), Finland's Lasse Viren, who repeated his Munich wins in the 5,000 and 10,000m, and America's Bruce Jenner in the decathlon.

At the end, it was widely considered that the 21st Olympiad had been a relative success. However, disorganisation and corruption led to the city of Montreal footing a somewhat unanticipated bill.


Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.