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Montreal 1976

The electronic scoreboard was unable to display the first 10.0 in the history of women’s gymnastics. It gave Nadia Comaneci’s score in the asymmetric bars as 1.00. Nadia Comaneci (born 12 November 1961) became the youngest female Olympic Champion of all time, aged 14.

ANECDOTE

Electronics were not ready for Nadia Comaneci

After her compulsory exercise on the asymmetric bars, Nadia Comaneci (born 12 November 1961) turned to the scoreboard and, when her score appeared, the spectators in the hall saw a small expression of delight on her face. The diminutive (1.54 m), petite (40 kg) Romanian had become the first Olympic gymnast ever to be awarded the maximum score of 10.0. The electronic scoreboard had not been designed to display such a mark, which is why her score appeared as “1.00”.

Comaneci was not confused by it, however. In the following few days, perfect scores became a regular occurrence in the Montreal Forum: seven in total for Comaneci and two for Nelli Kim, who was representing the Soviet Union. Three days after her first score of 10.0, Comaneci won the first of three gold medals in Montreal in the all-round competition. At the age of 14 years 250 days, she became the youngest female Olympic champion of all time. Like many things that happened in Montreal, she appeared to take it all in her stride, showing little emotion. “The star with the sad eyes”, she was called. A Canadian newspaper compared her to the unapproachable film star Greta Garbo. And yet she enchanted the public with her mixture of concentration and indifference.

Four years later in Moscow, Comaneci, who was now a woman, won two more Olympic gold medals. After several years of personal problems, she left the state run by Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, only a few weeks before the President was overthrown and sentenced to death. Bela Karolyi, who had discovered Comaneci at the age of six and remained her coach until the end of her career, had moved to the USA long before, enjoying further successes with American gymnasts. Nadia Comaneci was named “Gymnast of the Century” in Vienna in 1999. Today she lives in the USA and is married to 1984 Olympic champion Bart Conner.

TECHNOLOGY

First moving images on video matrix board

In the summer, 35 timekeepers travelled to Montreal with eight tonnes of equipment. An OMEGA video matrix board, which had made its world premiere at the Asian Games in Tehran two years earlier, was installed in the Stade Olympique. As well as times, this scoreboard displayed other information such as points and scores. It was designed for different alphabets and could also display black and white video recordings. Very few African athletes appeared on the board, since 22 African countries boycotted the Games due to a New Zealand rugby tour of South Africa. Eleven sports were looked after by OMEGA in Montreal.


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