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

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

19
The Games of the XXI Olympiad: Montreal, 1976

Following the tragic events of Munich, the Olympic movement badly needed to reassert itself at the Montreal Games. The city went into major debt to try to assure that the Games of 1976 would brighten the tarnished image of the Olympics; $1.2 billion was spent on the Games, including $100 million for security and $650 million for a new Olympic stadium.

All appeared to be in readiness for a controversy-free Olympics until forty-eight hours before the. Games when the racial tensions that had threatened the past two Olympics finally erupted. This time the complaint was against New Zealand, which had sent a rugby team to compete in South Africa. A group of African and Caribbean nations complained that this violated the ban on competition with the apartheid state of South Africa and that New Zealand should be banned from the Games. With the Opening Ceremonies only two days away, nearly thirty countries, about a fourth of the total invited, packed their bags and headed home. It was the first major boycott in Olympic history. Unfortunately it would not be the last.

The Games opened without the boycotting nations on July 17, and in the pomp, ceremony, and excitement of the Olympic pageant, much of the controversy of the preceding days was forgotten. There were still over six thousand athletes from ninety-two nations competing for Olympic glory.

Every Olympic Games has its unexpected heroes, and Montreal was no exception. In this case the athlete of the hour was a four-foot eleven-inch, fourteen-year-old Romanian gymnast named Nadia Comaneci. As televi-

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