Host City: Sapporo, Japan
Date Started: February 4, 1972
Date Finished: February 12, 1972
Participants: 81 (81 men and 0 women) from 11 countries
Youngest Participant: James Copley (20 years, 117 days)
Oldest Participant: Hans Gehrig (42 years, 178 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 4 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): West Germany (3 medals)
A Japanese bobsleigh tradition did not exist at the time Sapporo was chosen to host the 1972 Winter Olympics. No track existed in Japan and, unsurprisingly, no Japanese crew had participated in any previous edition of the Games.
In October 1969 construction of the Olympic bob run began on the North Slope of Mount Teine, Northwest of Sapporo. The structure was completed by January 1970 although many alterations and improvement were made before it hosted the Winter Games.
The track measured 1568 m and had 14 curves. The start was at 495 m above sea level and the course had a vertical drop of 132 m at an average gradient of 8.4%. Unlike at Grenoble the weather was generally favourable and the temperature hovered at between –6.0°C and –8.0°C for the eight competitive runs. Eleven nations entered with only the hosts being first time competitors. Indeed the Japanese crews were the first Asians to compete in Olympic bobsleigh.
After the Games the entire future of bobsleigh in the Olympic Games came under threat from IOC President Avery Brundage who suggested that “Bobsleigh does not belong on the Olympic program. There are only two or three hundred participants worldwide. Sapporo had to build a run costing $1,500,000. Now they are tearing it down”. In fact this was not the case and the track was only dismantled in 1991. Whether the sport would have remained on the program had not the citizens of Colorado rejected Denver’s hosting of the 1976 Games is a moot point.