5 unforgettable moments from the 1976 Montreal Olympics

It was 45 years ago this weekend that the Summer Olympics got underway in Montreal.

The long-awaited Tokyo Olympics are finally set to begin next week. And as Japan gets ready to host athletes from around the globe, our own unique, bizarre-looking “Big O” stares locals here in the face daily — providing them with a relic of a time when Montreal stood on the world’s stage. In fact, it was 45 years ago this weekend that the 1976 Summer Olympics got underway in Montreal. Although a distant or non-existent memory for many of us, those games had their own plentiful share of memorable moments. And while the repercussions of hosting them lead to corruption and a mountain of debt — something we’d all like to forget — there were still some highlights worth remembering. 

A royal representative

5 unforgettable moments from the 1976 Montreal Olympics

We have grown accustomed to seeing the royal family observe sporting events from above, often in private balcony seating. While the 1976 Games were officially inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II herself, another royal family member stole the show that year. Princess Anne, the queen’s daughter, competed as an equestrian in Montreal, even riding her majesty’s own horse, Goodwill. While she took home no medals, it’s safe to say her parents had the best seats in the house.

“Anybody got a light?”

The lighting of the Olympic flame is somewhat of a sacred ceremony. But in Montreal, the meticulous and otherwise seamless process was marred by bad weather. After the flame was lit in Athens, Greece, it was transported to Montreal’s cauldron, where it would stay lit for the entirety of the games. A heavy rainstorm followed in the days after the opening ceremony, extinguishing the Olympic flame. An Olympic official relit it with a cigarette lighter, hoping no one would notice.

Nadia’s perfect 10

Some would argue that there is no such thing as perfection. But when watching gymnast Nadia Comăneci compete in Montreal, judges were hard-pressed to find a single flaw in her performance. The then 14-year-old Romanian was the first gymnast to have ever been awarded a perfect score of 10 in Olympic history, leaving Montreal with three gold medals. 

A silver celebration

5 unforgettable moments from the 1976 Montreal Olympics

On the final day of events, Canada was still waiting on a first-place medal. Canadian men’s high jump finalist, Greg Joy wanted to win gold on home soil more than anything and was determined to do so. The 20-year-old heroically beat the record of his American counterpart, clearing 2.23m as thousands of locals erupted in applause. Although he ultimately finished second in the event, he was nonetheless a national hero, carrying the Canadian flag for the closing ceremonies. To this day, that unlikely silver medal is remembered fondly. “Every day of my life someone mentions that jump — and I finished second!” Joy says. 

Jenner’s decathlon record

Long before Keeping Up With the Kardashians aired and Kylie took over the world, Jenner became a household name following Caitlin’s show-stopping performance at the ’76 games in Montreal. The then decathlete took home gold and set a record of 8,634 points in the event. Jenner was soon crowned an “all-American hero” and unofficially named the “world’s greatest athlete.”

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