1972 Winter Olympics

The 1972 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XI Olympic Winter Games (Japanese: 第十一回オリンピック冬季競技大会, Dai Jūichi-kai Orinpikku Tōkikyōgi Taikai) (French: Les XIes Jeux olympiques d'hiver), were a winter multi-sport event which was held from February 3 to February 13, 1972, in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan. It was the first Winter Olympics to be held outside Europe and North America, and only the third game (summer or winter) held outside those regions overall, after Melbourne (1956 Summer Olympics) and Tokyo (1964 Summer Olympics).

XI Olympic Winter Games
Host citySapporo, Japan
Athletes1,006 (801 men, 205 women)
Events35 in 6 sports (10 disciplines)
Opening3 February
Closing13 February
Opened by
Hideki Takada
StadiumMakomanai Open Stadium
Grenoble 1968 Innsbruck 1976
Mexico City 1968 Munich 1972

Host city selection

Sapporo first won the rights to host the 1940 Winter Olympics, but Japan resigned as the Games' host after its 1937 invasion of China. The 1940 Games were later cancelled. All the cities awarded Games that were cancelled due to war have since hosted the Games (London, Tokyo, Helsinki, Sapporo and Cortina d'Ampezzo).

Sapporo competed with Banff, Lahti, and Salt Lake City. The Games were awarded at the 64th IOC Session in Rome, Italy, on April 26, 1966.

In preparation, the Japanese constructed new largescale facilities at Sapporo and conducted a trial run a full year in advance of the Games. An international sport week was held in February, 1971, to assess the city's preparations as well as "to test its civic mettle and hospitality", and this effort was acclaimed by Olympic observers as "a complete success".[1] The development of new infrastructure proved to be a huge boon for the Sapporo economy: by the time of the Games, the national government had invested some US$500 million in upgrades, including a new subway.[1] The Games' organizers themselves turned a healthy profit in part because they arranged a record $8.47 million for broadcast rights.[2]

1972 Winter Olympics bidding result[3]
City Country Round 1
Sapporo Japan32
Banff Canada16
Lahti Finland7
Salt Lake City United States7


  • Prior to these games, Japan had never won a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. The host country's fans in Sapporo were boosted when three Japanese athletes, led by Yukio Kasaya, swept the ski jumping 70 m (current K-90 normal hill) event for gold (Kasaya), silver (Akitsugu Konno), and bronze (Seiji Aochi); those would also be the only medals Japan would earn in these Olympics.
  • Galina Kulakova of the USSR won all three cross-country skiing events for women.
  • Dutch skater Ard Schenk won three gold medals in speed skating.
  • In Women's Alpine Skiing, American Barbara Ann Cochran, one of three siblings on the U.S. Ski Team, surprised the world and became the first U.S. woman since Andrea Mead Lawrence to win a Gold Medal in Skiing when she took first place in the Slalom with an excellent first run backed up by an even better second run.
  • In Alpine skiing, virtual unknown Swiss Marie-Thérès Nadig won both the downhill and the giant slalom events.
  • Magnar Solberg from Norway was the first repeat winner in the individual 20 km biathlon event, having first won in Grenoble.[4]
  • Spain scored its first Winter gold medal courtesy of slalom skier Francisco Fernández Ochoa.
  • American speedskaters Anne Henning and Dianne Holum made the United States' best showing in the Winter Games, winning two gold, a silver, and a bronze.[2]
  • Three days before the Games, controversy over amateur status arose when IOC president Avery Brundage threatened to disqualify 40 alpine skiers who received endorsement and other deals. Austrian skier Karl Schranz, who received over $50,000 per year from ski manufacturers, was banned as an example. Meanwhile, Canada refused to send an ice hockey team, maintaining that professional ice hockey players from Communist nations were allowed to compete with no restrictions.[5]
  • On a historical note, these Games are the last where a skier won the gold medal using all-wooden skis. Since this time, top-level cross-country skiers use skis made mostly of fibreglass synthetics.[6]
  • In female Figure skating event, American skater Janet Lynn won not only a bronze medal, but also tremendous popularity among Japanese audiences because of her artistic free program, as to make appearance on the cover of "Olympic Winter Games, Sapporo 1972" photo books published in Japan, and even on Japanese TV commercials later.
  • Luge had its only tie in the history of the Winter Olympics in the men's doubles event.


¹ New facilities constructed in preparation for the Olympic Games. ² Existing facilities modified or refurbished in preparation for the Olympic Games.


There were 35 events contested in 6 sports (10 disciplines).

Participating nations

35 nations participated in the 1972 Winter Olympics. The Republic of China (commonly known as Taiwan) and the Philippines participated in their first Winter Olympic Games.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Number of athletes by National Olympic Committees

Medal count

These are the top eleven nations that won medals at these Games. The host nation Japan finished 11th.

1 Soviet Union85316
2 East Germany43714
3 Switzerland43310
4 Netherlands4329
5 United States3238
6 West Germany3115
7 Norway25512
8 Italy2215
9 Austria1225
10 Sweden1124
11 Japan*1113
Totals (11 nations)33283091

Podium sweeps

Date Sport Event NOC Gold Silver Bronze
6 February Ski jumping Normal hill individual  Japan Yukio Kasaya Akitsugu Konno Seiji Aochi
7 February Luge Women's singles  East Germany Anna-Maria Müller Ute Rührold Margit Schumann
7 February Luge Men's singles  East Germany Wolfgang Scheidel Harald Ehrig Wolfram Fiedler

See also


  1. Findling, John E.; Pelle, Kimberly D. (1996). Historical dictionary of the modern Olympic movement. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 285. ISBN 0-313-28477-6. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  2. Washington Post
  3. "Past Olympic host city election results". GamesBids. Archived from the original on January 24, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  4. www.Olympic.org
  5. Infoplease-Sapporo
  6. aolhometown Archived June 18, 2007, at Archive.today
Preceded by
Winter Olympics

XI Olympic Winter Games (1972)
Succeeded by
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