Host City: Sapporo, Japan
Date Started: February 5, 1972
Date Finished: February 13, 1972
Participants: 143 (93 men and 50 women) from 27 countries
Youngest Participant: Kathy Kreiner (14 years, 277 days)
Oldest Participant: Lotfollah Kia Shemshaki (33 years, 256 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 3 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): Switzerland (6 medals)
The best skier in the world was Austrian Karl Schranz, overall World Cup champion in 1969 and 1970, and a World Champion twice as far back as 1962. But in the days of under-the-table payments and pseudo-amateurism, Schranz was also the most highly paid skier in the world, and that was a problem. IOC President Avery Brundage, arch-conservative supporter of amateurism, did not like the Olympic Winter Games, believing that many of the skiers were amateur in name only. He had even said that he would prefer there were no Winter Olympics and he decided in 1972 to set an example. Alpine skiing was, with figure skating, the most popular sport to the world-wide television audience, so there was no way Brundage could eliminate the sport, which he threatened. But in his last year as IOC President, he chose instead to make an example of the best-known skier, and he took out his wrath on Schranz. By 1972 Schranz had won every honor in international skiing, except for an Olympic gold medal, so he delayed his retirement to try once again, until three days before the Sapporo Olympics started, when the IOC voted 28-14 to ban Schranz from the Winter Olympics. The outcry in Austria was heard throughout the Alpine world, and they even considered withdrawing their entire Alpine team from the 1972 Winter Olympics, although eventually they all competed – except Schranz. Schranz instead returned to Wien, and was greeted by 100,000 Austrian fans who threw him a huge parade. Because Brundage was an American, the American Embassy in Wien received bomb threats and was the site of numerous protests. Shortly after the Sapporo Olympics ended, Schranz ended his competitive career. In 1988 the IOC awarded him a symbolic participation medal for the 1972 Winter Olympics.
The Alpine events in 1972 were held on Mount Teine for the technical competitions, to the southwest of Sapporo, and at Mount Eniwa for the men’s and women’s downhills. Mount Eniwa is an active volcano on the shores of Lake Shikotsu, although no eruptions have occurred there since the 18th century. The downhills started near the summit and finished on the southwest slope of the mountain. The men’s slalom again had a qualifying round, as in 1964 and 1968, with a slightly different format from those years, but this was the last year slalom qualifying would be used at the Winter Olympics. In the giant slalom, the women still contested a single run, while the men had two runs.