Dates: July 17 - August 1, 1976
Total Athletes: 6,189
Following the black cloud of the XXth Olympiad in Munich, Montreal was adamant
about putting on Games that would revive the Olympic message of unity and
Canadians, who were promised that the cost of hosting the Olympics would not
cost a dime, were stunned by the news that Montreal had spent a whopping $1.2
billion on its Games. Two of the largest expenditures was incurred by security,
which cost nearly $100 million and the $650 million spent to build Olympic
To make matters worse, 24 nations pulled out of the Olympics just 48 hours
prior to the start of the Games. These countries had pulled out in protest of
the inclusion of New Zealand, who had sent a rugby team on tour of South Africa
the year before which was a violation of the international sports ban against
South Africa for its racial discriminatory apartheid policies.
If that wasn't enough, the Taiwanese team (Republic of China) was denied entry
into Canada because the Canadian government did not recognize the Taiwanese
However, like most Olympics that had weathered war, disorganization, terrorist
attack, economic poverty, racial statements and more, it would be the athletes
that would save the day. The XXIst Olympiad would be no different.
Four years earlier, a young Russian gymnast Olga Korbut excited spectators and
fans alike and virtually put gymnastics on the map. Korbut would be
overshadowed by the new phenom, a 14-year old Romanian gymnast named Nadia
Comaneci. She would overshadow all athletes in Montreal.
Comaneci recorded the first perfect score in Olympic history, a 10, in team
compulsory competition on July 19, 1976. The next night, she would register
three more perfect marks, two on the bars and another on the beam. Several
nights later in the individual apparatus competition, another two on the uneven
bars and one more on the beam. In all, she scored seven perfect 10's en route
to three gold medals (all-around bars and beam), one silver medal (team
competition) and one bronze medal (floor exercise).
Almost overnight, Comaneci turned into a cash cow for Montreal officials, who
raised ticket prices to her events virtually overnight.
Other great performances permeated the XXIst Olympiad as well. American Bruce
Jenner would become a household name with his performance in the decathalon. He
established a world record in capturing the decathalon.
Cuba's Alberto Juantorena became the first man in Olympic history to win both
the 800 and 1,500 meter, something that was duplicated on the women's side by
Russian Tatyana Kazankina. Finland's Lasse Viren, who made a name for himself
in the Munich Games by capturing the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races, duplicated
his achievement in the Montreal Games and became the first person in history to
accomplish the feat in back-to-back Olympics.
One could not forget Edwin Moses, who launched onto the world scene in
Montreal, realizing a a world-record time of 47.64 in the hurdles, an event he
was introduced to the previous spring.
The U.S. men's swimming team totally dominated the pool. They won 12 out of 13
gold medals and 10 of 11 silver medals. John Naber was the star of the pool,
recording four gold medals. Great Britain's David Wilkie avoided an American
sweep by capturing the only other gold and silver in pool events.
The East German women also dominated the pool, winning 10 out of 12 gold
medals, four of which came from 18-year old Kornelia Ender.
Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, who launched his Olympic career four years
earlier with a gold medal performance in Munich, duplicated the feat again,
blowing past opponents in just seven minutes and 22 seconds total.
This was also the coming out party for another outgoing and very popular boxer,
Sugar Ray Leonard and Leon Spinks both of whom who would go on to become gold
medal and eventually world champions in their respective divisions.
Sweden's Anders Garderud and Hungary's Miklos Nemeth established world records
in the steeplechase and javelin respectively.
This would be the first Olympics for new IOC president Lord Killanin of
Ireland. While the overall appeal, friendship and cooperation was realized by
participating countries, it proved to be a fiscal disaster for Montreal for its
massive cost overruns direct public debt for infrastructure and venue building.