Wednesday, 13 June 2012

1976 Olympics

The looming prospect of the London 2012 Games has caused me to reminisce about some of my own Olympic memories.

I was not yet three years old when the Munich Olympics occurred in '72, so have no real memories.  However, I have definite recollections of watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics on television.  Possibly because of this, those Games have always held a fascination for me.

The 1976 Games were bedevilled by financial woes and a boycott by some African countries, and seem to have been neglected by many pundits and historians.  However, looking back objectively three and a half decades later, those Olympics stack up very well in terms of ambience and quality of competitions.

The athletics events were full of surprises and variety, with some new stars emerging, in the form of Alberto Juantorena, Edwin Moses and others, whilst the likes of Lasse Viren and Irena Szewinska cemented their claims to be regarded as Olympic legends.  There were some genuinely thrilling races, the men's 5000 metres and steeplechase events instantly springing to mind.

The swimming events were also noteworthy, with the USA entering possibly the most powerful men's team in the history of the Games.  The pool also supplied one of my most vivid memories of the '76 Games, in the form of David Wilkie's gold-medal performance, in world-record time, in the 200 metres breaststroke.  The race was made even more memorable by Alan Weeks' iconic BBC TV commentary.

Another arena of pure excellence during those Olympics was that of gymnastics, and particularly the mesmeric performances of the young Nadia Comaneci.  She took gymnastics to a new level of proficiency and perfection. 

In some ways, the 1976 Games were a hinge between the carefree amateur era, and the more cynical, commercialized future.  Of course, politics and doping were very much live issues even then, but there was still a vestige of innocence remaining.

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