The International Olympic Committee’s docuseries “72 – A Gathering of Champions” is a treasured gift for Olympic fans. For me, it’s a new and intimate window on my childhood hero, Mark Spitz, and his stunning performance at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
“There were eight filmmakers at the Olympic Games in 1972, filmmakers I didn’t know were there,” Mark explained. “They have over 300 hours of footage.”
The footage is 35mm. It’s lush, old school, big-movie-screen film. In the docuseries this media is inter-cut with Olympic stars from the 1972 Games.
“They captured me October of last year in Munich,” Mark said. “Hours of interviews were done as I retraced my steps at the pool, the mess hall, even the dormitory where I stayed.”
You can see the series on olympics.com. Episode 1 and 2 (of 4 total) are live now.
Episode 3 drops August 25th, and it’s entirely about Mark Spitz, the must-see episode.
Episode 4 drops September first.
(The entire series will air on television. Details of where/when will officially be announced September 15th.)
Mark Spitz will forever be swimming’s first superstar. He owned that honor for 36 years, until Michael Phelps won eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing. In Munich Mark won seven Olympic gold medals, all in world record times:
- 100-meter freestyle (51.22),
- 200-meter freestyle (1:52.78)
- 100-meter butterfly (54.27)
- 200-meter butterfly (2:00.70)
- 4×100-meter freestyle relay (3:26.42)
- 4×200-meter freestyle relay (7:35.78)
- 4×100-meter medley relay (3:48.16)
Back then goggles were illegal. Mark didn’t wear a swimming cap, and nylon was the top-end of racing tech for swimsuits.
Media coverage of the 1972 Olympic Games was scant compared to what fans are used to now. ABC Sports covered competitions more like the evening news. There’s only 52 minutes of actual race coverage and interviews with Mark from the original telecast of the ’72 Games. By comparison Michael Phelps’ coverage in 2008 was similar to two full seasons of watching your favorite TV star on a top dramatic series—and that was compressed into eight days.