Host City: München, West Germany
Venue(s): Volleyball Hall, Olympic Park, München
Date Started: August 27, 1972
Date Finished: September 9, 1972
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
The event had a different format compared to the 1964 and 1968 Olympics, with 12 teams competing in two pools of six. The qualifying standards were as follows: last two Olympic champions (USSR, Japan), top three at the 1970 World Championships (GDR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia replacing Japan), the host nation (Fed. Republic of Germany), the African Champion (Tunisia), the Asian Champion (Korea replacing Japan), the top two at the 1967 Pan-American Games (Cuba, Brazil), and two more places were determined in a Paris qualifying tournament (Romania, Polan). The top two teams in each pool were advanced to the semi-finals, with six matches used to determine final placements.
The USSR had won both gold medals in the Olympics, but had not won the Worlds since 1962, although they were European Champions in 1971. The 1970 World Champions were the East Germans – the GDR, represented mostly by players from Sportclub Leipzig. Japan had won a bronze medal in 1964, a silver medal in 1968, and a bronze medal at the 1970 Worlds. Japan and the Soviets won the pools with undefeated records, and Bulgaria and East Germany (GDR) also advanced to the semis. Both semi-finals were close, with Japan needing five sets to defeat Bulgaria, while the GDR defeated the Soviets in four. In the final, the GDR won the first set 15-11, but Japan came back to win the final three sets fairly easily, crushing the East Germans, 15-2, in the second set.