Posted: 8/3/2012


           The 1972 Munich Summer Olympics was my fourth, and was of course overshadowed by the murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian cowards in the Olympic village at 31 Connollystrasse and later at Fuerestenfeldbruck air base. I was in the village a number of times and had swapped a pin with the first athlete to be killed. The terror raid was financed by the now President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas.

            At University in Leeds we had two instructors, Ronnie Morgan and Graham Adamson who in the tiny gymnasium in 1953 invented Circuit Training. They later became personal friends and in the mid 1960's after I had graduated, Adamson, an important person in British Basketball offered me the unpaid role of Press Officer for the sport, with a new national league just launched. I refused for a number of reasons, including not wanting to be surrounded by taller people.

            I don't follow the sport too closely, but ONE event that has fascinated me for 40 years was the 1972 Men's Basketball final between USA and USSRTeam USA  had won gold records in every Games since the sport was introduced in Berlin in 1936. In fact I had visited the Olympiastadion there a number of times and seen photos and the site of the basketball. The matches were played on a rain soaked dirt court.

           Anyway, with ONE second remaining on the clock USA sealed the win 50-49, OR SO WE THOUGHT. I was back home by then and was watching on T.V. It was held very late at night, September 9th, on the penultimate day of the Games.

           WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WAS EXTRAORDINARY !  From the best seats out came RENATO WILLIAM JONES, born in Rome in 1908 with an Italian father and British mother, and who later took out British citizenship. He had been a pioneer and responsible for persuading the IOC to have the sport made an Olympic sport in 1936.  In 1972 he was Secretary General of FIBA, the sport's governing body, which he had helped found in 1932, and had graduated from Springfield College in 1928, where basketball was born in 1891.

          Many books have been written about these events, which you can find on line.

          The USA which was still an amateur, all collegiate squad, was coached by HANK IBA. They had sailed through the prelims with wins: 66-35 Czechs, 81-55 Australia, 67-48 Cuba, 96-31 Egypt, 72-56 Spain, 99-33 Japan. Knock-out stage USA 68-Italy 38.

          Trailing 49-48 in the final in the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle they were fouled and awarded 2 free throws with one second remaining. Doug Collins scored the first 49-49 and as he shot the 2nd, which he scored, the buzzer went off from the scorer's table. Jones went from the stands to the table and ORDERED the clock reset at THREE SECONDS. He later admitted that once the game was in progress, he had NO AUTHORITY to intervene !

          Referee Renato Righetto and head score keeper Hans Tenschert objected, but to no avail. Brazilian Righetto only spoke Portuguese and Tenschert only German. Frank Gifford the ABC TV commentator said he was totally confused. After THREE false starts Soviet player Ivan Edeshko threw a long ball half the court where Kevin Joyce and Jim Forbes failed to prevent Aleksandr Belov from scoring the winning point 50-49.

         The five man FIBA appeals jury met until 3.00am and were evidently split 3-2 against the USA appeal. Puerto Rico and Italy voting for the appeal and the Soviet 'block' of Hungary, Cuba and Poland upholding the decision. The IOC was appealed to, but no change. USA players decided not to attend the awards ceremony and receive the silver medals.

         TOTAL CONFUSION. Some say that TWO gold medals should have been awarded as happened at a future Winter Olympics in 2002 when a judge had been unduly influenced by the head of the sport's governing body. Others say that the Americans showed poor sportsmanship. Still others say that HANK IBA had lost the plot.  Although a previous gold medal coach, the game had changed. USSR had toured the USA a few months earlier and had improved and had met with Jones for discussions about rule interpretation before the Olympics.

          Jones was later awarded an honourary degree at Springfield College and FIBA Hall of Fame. He died in Munich in 1981 and was largely responsible for promoting the sport in Europe and Asia.