Host City: Montréal, Canada
Date Started: July 18, 1976
Date Finished: July 27, 1976
Participants: 213 (141 men and 72 women) from 13 countries
Youngest Participant: Nancy Lieberman (18 years, 19 days)
Oldest Participant: Teo Cruz (34 years, 192 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 72 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): Soviet Union and United States (2 medals)
The Olympic basketball program expanded in 1976, with women competing for the first time. Women had competed in World Championships since 1953, with the United States winning in 1953 and 1957, and the Soviet Union winning all the other tournaments, from 1959-75. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were held at the Centre Étienne Desmarteau in Montréal, with final-round games played at the Montréal Forum. The Centre Étienne Desmarteau has since been primarily a hockey venue, as is the Montréal Forum, which is the most legendary sports arena in Canada, as the long-time home of the Montréal Canadiens in the NHL.
With the women’s tournament added, the men’s field was reduced to 12 teams from the previous 16. Qualifying was held for the men with the top three teams from München (Soviet Union, United States, Cuba), and the host nation, Canada, eligible. The other qualifying tournaments were as follows – Pre-Olympic Tournament (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Mexico); European Qualifying Tournament (Italy); 1975 Oceanian Championships (Australia); 1975 Centrobasket Tournament (Puerto Rico); 1975 Asian Championships (Japan); and 1975 African Championships (Egypt). China actually won the 1975 Asian Championships but did not compete at the Olympics until 1984.
The men were separated into two groups of six teams each, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the semi-finals. The United States won the gold medal, after having lost at München in a controversial final game against the Soviet Union, but the two teams did not meet in Montréal, as the Soviets lost in the semis to Yugoslavia, who were beaten quite easily in the final by the USA.
There were only six teams in the women’s field, with those teams having to qualify in the following manner. The top three teams from the 1975 World Championships (Soviet Union, Japan, Czechoslovakia), the top two teams from the Pre-Olympic Tournament (United States, Bulgaria), and the host nation, Canada, made up the field. The women played a straight round-robin tournament with the Soviet Union winning the gold medal, with the United States second.