Olympic Stories

The Olympics that kept people on the edge of their seats

The Olympics that kept people on the edge of their seatsThe 1972 Summer Olympic Games were introduced with pomp and circumstance as is common for such affairs. They were preceded by the running, carrying and passing of the Olympic Torch by selected runners from around the world. The torch lighting ceremony is in itself always a spectacular event. The opening of the games was quite spectacular.

This was the first return of the Olympics to Munich since 1936. At that time, Adolf Hitler had hoped to use the Olympics as a platform to show off the superiority of the German/Aryan “super race”. The return of the Olympic Games to Munich was seen as an opportunity to heal many old racial wounds that had been opened there shortly before world war two.

Soon after the opening events of the games, events would unfold that were even worse than those of 1936. Despite all the controversies and terrorist events that unfolded during the Olympics, there was one highlight that is not often remembered, perhaps because of all of the other events that occurred there.

The 1972 Summer Games will always be remembered. While many memories of these particular games may be overshadowed by other, more tragic events, one of the most memorable moments was the first defeat of the American Men’s Basketball team.

The American Men’s Basketball team had won an astounding sixty-two games without even suffering one loss. There was never any thought of leaving with less than a perfect record, much less with anything less than a gold medal. The first game was reminiscent of their past performances and resulted in a sixty-six to thirty-five win over Czechoslovakia.

Their next opponent, Australia, was soundly defeated in an eighty-one to fifty-five point loss. Cuba was next in line and put up a surprisingly good defense, even if not good enough to win. Cuba lost with a score of sixty-seven to forty-eight. The next in the series was the closest game to date for the American men that ended in a defeat for Brazil with the final score being sixty-one to fifty-four. Egypt was thoroughly and quickly defeated.

The final score of this game was ninety-six for the American men and thirty-one for the Egyptians. Spain also suffered at the hands of the American Men’s team finishing the game with fifty-six points against the American’s seventy-two. Japan was next to face the Americans on the court. The final tally here was a paltry thirty-three points for the Japanese while the Americans tallied an impressive ninety-nine points. The Italians fared better in the semi-finals perhaps, but not much. They ended up in defeat with a score of thirty-eight against the American’s sixty-eight points.

While the American’s were expected to do nothing less than to win every game, the Russian men had been faring very well themselves. In fact, they had exceeded all of their highest expectations. The Russian men also had posted a very impressive eight wins with no losses going into the finals with the American Men’s basketball team.

As the Americans had also posted an eight and zero record, this was expected to be a highly contested game. No fan who expected high-tension and controversy would be disappointed. In what has become perhaps one of the most controversial moments in Olympic History, the USSR and the USA had a basketball game.

Russia fired the opening shots in the game scoring an unanswered seven points. By half-time, while the Americans had done well, they were still down by a surprising margin of five points. The second half of the game would be even more physical and marred by ejections and injuries.

A fracas ensued over a loose ball between America’s Dwight Jones and Russia’s Dvorni Edeshko. Both of them were ejected from the game as a result. With only twelve minutes left in the game and the Russians maintaining a four point lead, this was a critical loss for America’s team. During the tossup resulting from the fracas, America’s Jim Brewer was knocked violently to the floor not only giving him a concussion, but effectively removing him from the game.

Still, the Americans managed to close the gap to a one point Soviet lead with only ten seconds left on the clock. America’s Doug Collins made a frantic drive for the basket with only three seconds left. He received an uppercut for his efforts. The blatant foul was answered by two free throws from Collins resulting in two additional points for the Americans giving them a one point lead with three seconds still on the clock. The Soviets immediately put the ball back into play after the second free-throw by Collins.

They were not successful in scoring and the Americans began to celebrate their hard-fought victory. It did not end there though. A problem with the time keepers resulted in a final buzzer being sounded during Collins second free throw. Collins took this in stride and still managed to make both of his shots. However, the confusion resulted in the clock being reset to three seconds and the Soviet players being given a second chance. Still a second time, the Americans managed to fend off a scoring attempt and began once again to celebrate … Prematurely. The secretary general of the FIBA R.

William Jones had noticed that the ball had been put in play while the clock was being reset. He again ordered three seconds on the play clock and the Soviets received yet a third chance at Victory. This time, the Soviets Aleksander Belov made a drive for the basket and succeeded in sinking his shot. This time it was the Soviets turn to celebrate. The final score was fifty-one for the Soviet Union and fifty for the Americans. It was the first defeat in Olympic history for the American men.

The Americans were quick to file a protest. Even the score keeper and time keeper noted that the American’s had in fact won the game. The Olympic judging committee consisted of three communist-bloc nation judges and two judges from non-communist nations. Not surprisingly, the vote was three to two against the Americans. In a silent protest, the Americans refused to accept their silver medals. To this day, the medals are secured in a vault in Lusanne, Switzerland. Whether you agree with the decision or not, this was one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.

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