Sapporo had already been eligible to host the Olympics in 1940, but due to the war with China, Japan’s Olympic Committee refused this honorable mission. The Olympics returned to Japan after a long 32 years. Athletes from 35 countries participated in the 1972 competition, with a total of 1006 athletes participating. For the first time, athletes from such a non-winter country as the Philippines competed in the games.
In Sapporo, 35 sets of awards were played in 10 sports disciplines. The first place in the unofficial medal standings was confidently taken by the USSR team. Soviet athletes won 16 medals, including eight gold. Second place, unexpectedly for many, went to the GDR team, competing in the Winter Games for the second time in that country’s history. The
heroine of the Olympics was cross-country skier Galina Kulakova, who won three Olympic gold medals at one Games (the distance of 5 and 10 km and the relay of 4×7.5 km). Another hero was Dutchman Ard Schkenck. He won three gold medals in speed skating events (in the 1500 m, 5000 m and 10000 m distances). A tulip variety was later named in Holland after him.
At the Olympic Games in Sapporo for the first time the Olympic champion was the great figure skater Irina Rodnina. Then she skated in a pair with Alexei Ulanov. Second place in pairs competitions was also taken by Soviet athletes, it was Lyudmila Smirnova and Andrey Suraikin.
The real sensation was the performances of Japanese jumpers. The Japanese, who did not count on special success, took the entire podium in jumping from the seventy meter springboard. And before that, in the asset of the Japanese team there was only one silver Olympic medal, won at the 1956 games in Cortino d’Ampezzo.
The Winter Games in Sapporo were held under the sign of fighting “professionalism” in the Olympic movement. Austrian alpine skier Carl Schranz was suspended from the competition. It was the second time he suffered. He was stripped of an Olympic gold medal for the first time at the 1968 Games in Grenoble. Schrantz was punished for contracts with sponsors and advertising sports equipment manufacturers. In those years, it was thought that money had no place in amateur sports.
It was the confrontation of professionals and amateurs that caused the Canadian ice hockey team to boycott games in Sapporo. Canadian hockey players insisted on granting eligibility to N.H.L. athletes in the Olympics, pointing out that Soviet hockey players are amateurs only “on paper.” But their request was not granted, as a result, the parents of ice hockey refused to take part in the competition at all. The winners were hockey players of the USSR, the second place was taken by the Americans, and the bronze was won by the athletes of Czechoslovakia.
Interesting fact: during the rehearsal of the opening games, one of the spectators drew the attention of organizers to the wrong arrangement of the rings on the Olympic flag. According to the rules, rings are arranged in the following order: blue, yellow, black, green, red. It turned out that the wrong flag had been flown at every Winter Games since 1952. And no one noticed the mistake.