Host City: Montréal, Canada
Venue(s): Claude Robillard Centre, Montréal, Québec; Olympic Pool, Montréal, Québec
Date Started: July 18, 1976
Date Finished: July 27, 1976
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to the round-robin final pool.
Since World War II the top water polo nations had been Hungary, Yugoslavia, Italy, and the Soviet Union. In 1973 FINA instituted the World Aquatics Championship, which gave more idea of who the strongest teams were coming into the Olympic year. But those only showed that little had changed in the water polo world. In 1973 Hungary was World Champion, with the Soviets winning silver, and Yugoslavia bronze, while in 1975 the Soviets won the title, followed by Hungary and Italy. At the 1974 European Championships, the medalists finished in the same order as in 1973 at the Worlds – Hungary, USSR, Yugoslavia.
But in a shocker at Montréal, the Soviet Union did not advance to the medal round, placing only third in Group B, trailing the Netherlands and Romania. The Soviet officials were so upset that they withdrew their team from the consolation pool, forfeiting the first match against Cuba, officially stating that several of their players were sick, but the Olympic water polo officials then convinced them to play on. They did but placed second behind Cuba in the consolations, or eighth overall, the forfeited loss to Cuba being the margin between the two teams.
In Group A Italy and Yugoslavia advanced, while Hungary and West Germany made it out of Group C. The final pool saw Hungary win its sixth Olympic water polo gold medal (1932, 1936, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1976). They won their first four matches in the finals, although every game was close, as they won by scores of 6-5, 5-3, 5-3, 9-8, and then faced their archrival, Yugoslavia, who had not won a game in the final round. The two teams tied, 5-5, which gave Hungary the gold and placed Yugoslavia fifth, without a final round victory. Italy and the Netherlands tied the final match of the tournament, 3-3, which left them tied in the pool, with 2 wins, 2 ties, and 1 loss each. They were also tied on goal differential, but Italy was awarded the silver medal because they had scored more goals in the medal round, 22-18.
Hungary also had the leading goalscorer of the tournament, with [Tamás Faragó], who scored 22 times. [István Szivós] was also on the Hungarian team, winning his third consecutive Olympic medal, after bronze in 1968 and silver in 1972. He would return in 1980 and win a fourth medal, a bronze.