Host City: München, West Germany
Venue(s): Volleyball Hall, Olympic Park, München
Date Started: August 27, 1972
Date Finished: September 7, 1972
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
The event had a different format compared to the 1964 and 1968 Olympics, with eight teams competing in two pools of four. The qualifying standards were as follows: the defending champion (USSR), the top four teams at the 1970 World Championships (Japan, North Korea [DPR Korea], Hungary, and Czechoslovakia substituting for the Soviets), the Asian Champion (Korea), the 1967 Pan-American Games champion (Cuba), and the host nation (Federal Republic of Germany). The top two teams in each pool were advanced to the semi-finals, with four final matches used to determine final placements.
The Soviets were favored, having won the 1970 Worlds, the 1968 Olympics, and the last four European titles. Their main opponent was expected to be their long-time rival, Japan, the 1964 Olympic champion. Japan and the USSR both won their pools with undefeated records, and were joined in the semis by the two Koreas. This was not considered an upset as Korea had been third at the 1967 Worlds and North Korea (DPR Korea) third at the 1970 Worlds. But they were both defeated fairly easily in the semis by the favorites, setting up the hoped-for final. And it was quite a final. The two teams alternated sets, with the Soviet Union eventually winning 15-11, in the fifth.
In the bronze medal match, DPR Korea easily defeated Korea in three sets, 7, 9, and 9. After the match, the South Koreans claimed that the top PRK player [Kim Zung-Bok] was a man, not a woman. Their protest was disallowed, as the IOC had issued sex tests prior at these Olympics, and Kim had passed them. But according to the South Koreans, she had been substituted in the test by another player, Han Jong-Suk, who did not play at the Olympics.