For the Great White North, the middle of the 1970s was a time to celebrate – the first time Canada was the host country for the Olympics in the city of Montreal.
With 92 nations participating, the Summer Olympic Games opened on July 17th, with the ceremonies including Queen Elizabeth II, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Parti Quebecois premier Robert Bourassa.
It was the first Olympics to introduce three women’s sports – handball, basketball and rowing as well as being the Olympics where Taiwan withdrew after the Canadian government informed them they could not compete under the name Republic of China. A group of 28 African nations led by the Congo protested the presence of the New Zealand rugby team as they had played in South Africa, then still under its apartheid law.
But for the spectators, there were many precedents set – the United States mens’ swimming team won all but one medal, while the East German womens’ swimming team won all but two gold medals.
The United States boxing team, comprised of Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, Leo Randolph and Howard Davis Jr. all won gold medals – one of the best teams of the modern day Olympics.
For gymnastics, the spotlight was focued on Romanian competitor Nadia Comenici scored the first ever Olympic perfect 10 – a record seven times as well as three gold medals, including the All-Around gold medal for womens gymnastics.
Meanwhile US decathlete Bruce Jenner, scored the highest points ever, 8634 points, a world record and won the gold medal for the decathlon. The Soviet Union and East Germany dominated the medal count, while Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Papua New Guinea and the Cayman Islands debuted for their first teams in Montreal.
Although as host country, Canada didn’t win a gold medal, and the out of control costs of the Olympics have left a negative view with many locals, the 1976 Summer Olympics is still remembered fondly because of the athletes – Jenner, Spinks, Leonard, Comaneci.