1972 Winter Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year XI / 1972
Host city Sapporo, Japan (Venues)
Opening ceremony 3 February
Closing ceremony 13 February
Competition dates 3 – 13 February
OCOG Organizing Committee for the XIth Olympic Winter Games
Participants 1005 from 35 countries
Medal events 35 in 10 disciplines


Banff, British Columbia in Canada was thought to be the favorite to win the bid for the 1972 Olympic Winter Games. The nearby city of Calgary had narrowly lost the bid for the 1968 Olympic Winter Games and the Winter Olympics had not yet been held in Canada, a hotbed of winter sport. Sapporo, Japan was considered an outside choice, but the distance to Japan seemed prohibitive in winter weather. However, Sapporo was chosen over Banff on the first round. After the success of the 1964 Olympics, the IOC was happy to return to the Orient and the city of Sapporo, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The ninth largest city in Japan in 1972, Sapporo was also the largest city to host the Olympic Winter Games to that time.

The controversy that had started in Grenoble four years earlier continued and erupted at the beginning of the Games. IOC President Avery Brundage insisted on ending commercialization by skiiers and singled out Austrian star, Karl Schranz, who was expelled from the Games. Brundage had developed an intense hatred for the Winter Olympics and in his last year as IOC President, wished to make a statement by sadly and arbitrarily ending the Olympic career of one of history’s greatest skiiers. Back home in Austria, Schranz was awarded the Austrian Order of Merit, and Brundage was burned in effigy.

Another controversy occurred when Canada refused to send their ice hockey team, protesting professionalism by the Soviets. The USSR won the gold medal quite easily, though it is unlikely the Canadians would have made a difference, as by 1972, the Soviets were showing that they could now play well against the NHL.

Holland’s Ard Schenk was the most publicized athlete at these Olympics as he won three championships in speed skating. Schenk’s attempt to sweep the speed skating events failed when he fell shortly after the start of the 500 metres. Female cross-country skiier Galina Kulakova matched Schenk’s triple, though a bit more surreptitiously to the world’s media. The Japanese, not usually a winter sports power, were exultant when three of their ski jumpers, led by Yukio Kasaya, swept the medals in the 70 metre ski jumping.

Figure skating saw the first Olympic appearance of the Soviet pair skater Irina Rodnina. Skating with Aleksey Ulanov, Rodnina won her first gold medal. But Ulanov was in love with the female in the silver medal winning pair, Lyudmila Smirnova, and in 1973 he married Smirnova. Rodnina dropped Ulanov as a partner, and then won two more pairs gold medals in 1976 and 1980, skating with Aleksandr Zaytsev.

Austria’s Beatrix “Trixi” Schuba won the women’s figure skating gold, but her victory had a major effect on figure skating rules. Schuba was a superb exponent of the school figures but just an average free skater. The American, Janet Lynn, was adequate at the school figures, but is still considered by many as the greatest female free skater ever. But Schuba built up such an advantage in the school figures that she could not be defeated, even though Lynn won the free skating and Schuba finished 7th in that section of the event. This result led, one year later, to the introduction of the short program, a second section of free skating, and in the 1990s, it was followed by the complete removal of school figures from major international figure skating competition.

Bid process

Bid voting at the 65th IOC Session in Roma on 26 April 1966.

Round 1
Sapporo Japan 32
Banff Canada 16
Lahti Finland 7
Salt Lake City, Utah United States 7


Officially opened by Hirohito, Emperor of JapanJPNEmperor
Torchbearer Hideki TakadaJPNLit flame
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Keiichi SuzukiJPNSSK
Taker of the Official's Oath Fumio AsakiJPNSJP
Olympic Flag Bearer Eight unknown members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force
Unknown all-girl junior high school drum corps
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Alpine Skiing Figure Skating Ski Jumping
Biathlon Ice Hockey Speed Skating
Bobsleigh Luge
Cross Country Skiing Nordic Combined

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Soviet Union URS 8 5 3 16
East Germany GDR 4 3 7 14
Switzerland SUI 4 3 3 10
Netherlands NED 4 3 2 9
United States USA 3 2 3 8
West Germany FRG 3 1 1 5
Norway NOR 2 5 5 12
Italy ITA 2 2 1 5
Austria AUT 1 2 2 5
Sweden SWE 1 1 2 4
Japan JPN 1 1 1 3
Czechoslovakia TCH 1 0 2 3
Poland POL 1 0 0 1
Spain ESP 1 0 0 1
Finland FIN 0 4 1 5
France FRA 0 1 2 3
Canada CAN 0 1 0 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Galina Kulakova RUS
3 0 0 3
Ard Schenk NED 3 0 0 3
Vyacheslav Vedenin RUS
2 0 1 3
Marie-Theres Nadig SUI 2 0 0 2
Pål Tyldum NOR 1 2 0 3
Stien Baas-Kaiser NED 1 1 0 2
Dianne Holum USA 1 1 0 2
Alevtina Olyunina-Smirnova RUS
1 1 0 2
Fyodor Simashov RUS
1 1 0 2
Gustavo Thoeni ITA 1 1 0 2

All medalists at these Games