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An Alternate History of the Olympics: 1976

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1976: Los Angeles

The Summer Olympic Games were approved to return to North America (thus overturning the much rumoured continental sharing model postulated by many so-called experts) for 1976, a scant 4 years after the Montreal games, when at the 1970 Amsterdam Congress 1928 host LA beat out Menshevik Russian capital of St Petrograd 41 votes to 28.

Held during the American Tricentennial celebrations, the LA 76 games were remarkable for the amount of state financial support secured from the Federal government by ex-Hollywood mogul Lee Iaccoca. Iaccoca had been selected by the USOC as both bid chairman and latterly LAOOC head after his committee rival Peter Ueberroth was brought before congress on charges of accepting bribes from fast food outlet McKroks. Iaccoca argued that for the US to make the most of these Olympics, the 5th to be staged in America, state finances would create the best facilities, the best legacy and the best environment for the greatest home town results in the sporting arenas.


The USC Richard Nixon Olympic Swim Complex: 1976

US President Spiro Agnew opened the 1976 LA Olympics on August 1st, in the presence of IOC President Lord Louis Mountbatten (who had just survived an assassination attempt made on him whilst on holidays in Wales, launched by the terrorist organisation the Cymru Freedom Fighters). The Opening Ceremony was a spectacular theatrical event thanks to the input of local film director Ed Wood Jnr. His staging of 76 trombones playing the newly composed Olympic Fanfare (written by Californian classical music legend Buck Owens) set the tone for a magnificent celebration of Americana, Olympic history and Los Angeles' Hispanic and Germanic heritage. The torch relay brought the crowd of over 100,000 to their feet as penultimate runner Mark Spitz handed the Olympic flame over to Rome silver medallist Cassius Clay. Clay went on to ignite the cauldron even though his Parkinson's disease gave him an almost insurmountable task.


Sporting events at the LA games were sadly marred by the detection of numerous drug cheats from Germany, including multiple gold medallist Kornelia Ender. The blonde swimmer had been the surprise of the Olympics after she defeated Australian legend Shane Gould and her compatriot Jenny Turrell in the 100 and 200 metres freestyles, whilst breaking American Shirley Babashoff's 1500 metres world record. After she tried to avoid compulsory testing by swapping her urine sample with almost 100% pure apple schnapps, she was found to have been using anabolic steroids. These drugs had actually changed her body to such an extent she possessed a miniature version of male genitalia, which had been hidden by her kevlar swimsuit.

Cuban runner Alberto Juantorana was a hot favourite to win the first 400/800/1500 metres track triple however he was defeated to the unalloyed joy of all Americans by local hero Steve Prefontaine. Prefontaine's results were all the more spectacular considering less than a year before he had crashed his MG motor vehicle in a near fatal accident. Juantorena unfortunately was thrown into prison upon his return to Cuba due to his supposed leftist leaning by his country's dictator Fulgencia Batista.

Other notable winners at the main stadium included Raelene Boyle, repeating her defeat of Renate Stecher from Montreal. The German had lost out to the Australian in both the 100 metres and 200 metres four years earlier, whereas in LA 76 Stecher was disqualified for false starts in both sprints. To compound her failure Stecher dropped the baton in the 4x100 metres relay, allowing the US and Australian teams to win gold and silver respectively. The otehr major local hero in track and field was Bruce Kardashian, who took the decathlon gold with the first score above 8000 points.

In equestrian events the Princess of Wales, Anne Saxe Coburg-Gotha won gold medals in dressage and the four day event for Great Britain, overcoming the trauma of having to undergo a sex test (the first ever performed at the Olympics). Over at Dodger Stadium Japan took the baseball gold from Honduras, whilst at the Jane Pauley Pavilion Transylvanian gymnast Nadia Comanenci failed to knock off reigning queen of the rings, parallel bars and beam, Menshevik Russian Olga Korbut. Another Menshevik Russian gold medallist was Boris Onishchenko, whose skill with the epee in both fencing and modern pentathlon lead to him being the first to win four golds across both events.


Nadia Comanenci failing to realise she has just recorded a mark of 1 point for the tunnel ball apparatus

Eventually, after 18 days of competition the LA 76 games came to a close. Repeating the success of the 1928 Games, these Olympics were a further reinforcement of the policies of Mountbatten's IOC. Cold War tensions were eased thanks to a rapprochement meeting held between President Agnew and Russian Premier Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at the weight lifting, whilst colonial African teams were welcomed back to the fold after their 1972 walk out (Rhodesian PM Robert Mugabe even donated gold to the LAOOC for the medals presented to all champions during the games). A political, sporting and financial success, the 1976 Summer Games reinforced the Olympic movement as the most significant non-government grouping outside the League of Nations.


A jet pack display from veteran US astronaut Neil Armstrong at the LA 76 closing ceremony

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wow - I am "blown" away - you must be very interested in history, since you know so many details! (e.g. that St. Peterburg was called St. Petrograd once)

by the way I am astonished that we haven't had Olympics in Oz so far...

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Thanks CAF...let's just say I love history, and a few hours sitting through (for example) lessons on the downfall of the Romanovs in 1917 helped me put together some of this ;)

And don't worry...Australia will get their games :D

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