Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

18
The Games of the XX Olympiad: Munich, 1972

With the staging of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West German officials hoped to erase the memory of the "Hitler Games" in 1936. A splendid Olympic complex was built and ceremonies were planned which were tastefully understated, in contrast to the overblown pomp of 1936. West Germany spent $600 million on Olympic preparations. As in 1968, racial unrest threatened the Games before they even started. This time the furor was over the IOC's decision to invite Rhodesia to the Games. Once again, the threat of the boycott by African nations and others forced the IOC to reconsider and the invitation was withdrawn.

On opening day, August 26, a record 7,830 athletes from a record 122 countries marched into the Olympic Stadium. When a young West German carried the Olympic torch on its final circuit of the track, he was accompanied by a sort of honor guard of distance runners from four continents- marathoners Derek Clayton of Australia and Kenji Kimihara of Japan as well as America's Jim Ryun and Kenyan Kip Keino.

In the first week of competition the spotlight was stolen by American swimmer Mark Spitz. In Mexico City, Spitz had failed to live up to predictions that he might win six gold medals, but he more than made up for that shortfall by winning seven golds in Munich.

On the track, surprises abounded, some as a result of foolish mistakes. Two Americans missed their heat in the 100 meters when their coach misread the schedule. Jim Ryun fell in his qualifying heat of the 1,500

-83-

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