These were the Games of the expulsion of Rhodesia, of Olga Korbut and Valeriy Borzov, Mark Spitz and Lasse Virén and the most controversial basketball match in the history of the sport. But the world stood still on 5 September.
A raid by terrorists from the Black September group left two members of the Israeli Olympic squad dead. Nine more were taken hostage and subsequently killed in an attempted rescue that also claimed the lives of five terrorists and a German police officer.
Avery Brundage, who had insisted on American participation at the 1936 Games in Berlin and on proceeding with the 1968 Games after the deaths of student protestors in Mexico, received some sympathy for his decision to continue in Munich after a break of one day for a memorial service. There was rather less support for his speech which likened the impact of the murders to the threats posed by professionalism in sport and political bans. Brundage stepped down soon after the Games.
Spitz, from a Jewish family in California, won gold in four individual swimming events and three relays, setting world records in each competition. Aged just 22 — a year younger than Michael Phelps in Beijing — Spitz retired after the Games, re-emerging in 1991 but failing, at the age of 41, to meet the qualifying standard for Barcelona 92.
Shane Gould was even younger, setting world records in winning gold at 200m and 400m freestyle and the 200m individual medley and adding silver for 800m freestyle and bronze at 100m. But she retired the year after the Games at the age of just 16.
Japan's Sawao Kato was the top male gymnast with three gold medals in a total of five and Ludmila Tourischeva added two golds, a silver and a bronze to her gold from Mexico but it was her Soviet team-mate Olga Korbut who won the hearts of the growing ranks of media. Korbut delivered three golds, one silver and captivating smile.
On the track Lasse Virén emerged as the latest of the Flying Finns with victory at 5,000m and 10,000m and Valeriy Borzov became the first European runner to win the men's sprint double. Renate Stecher of East Germany won the women's 100m and 200m, chased home in each race by the Australian Raelene Boyle.
Borzov's task was made slightly less difficult by the absence of two American runners who turned up too late for the 100m quarter-final, and while the United States won the sprint relay worse was to come in the 4 x 400m. With one runner already out because of injury, the Americans lost Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett, gold and silver medallists respectively in the 400m, to a ban from the IOC for showing disrespect in the victory ceremony.
Unable to field a team, the Americans watched as Kenya took first place to add to Kip Keino's gold for the 3,000m steeplechase and silver for 1,500m in his last Games.
Further misfortune struck the Americans when their unbeaten run in Olympic basketball, dating back to the first match in 1936, came to a dramatic end in the final. Post-match disputes focused on the amount of time added on at the end of the match as the Americans turned a deficit of 48— 49 into a one-point lead before the clock was re-set to one second and the Soviets snatched the game and the gold, 51—50.
Less of a surprise was the success of Soviet wrestler Alexander Medved. He had won gold at light-heavyweight in Tokyo and at heavyweight in Mexico, and stepped up to end his career with super-heavyweight gold here.
In the gentler sport of dressage Great Britain's Lorna Johnstone, who didn't make her Games debut until Melbourne at the age of 56, set a record as the oldest woman to compete in the Olympics when she took part in the team and individual events aged 70.
Top three performances
1-Mark Spitz (USA) - A performance for the ages from the moutstachied swimming legend, who landed seven golds in the pool.
2-Olga Korbut (URS) - The 17-year-old won three gynamstics gold, but missed out on the all-around title after falling from the bars.
3-Valeriy Borzov (URS) - A rare Russian spring success, winning the 100m and 200m - the two top US 100m runners missed their quarter-finals due to a scheduling mistake.
Did you know?
Archery and Handball returned to the schedule having been absent since 1920 and 1936 respectively.
A German student, Norbert Sudhaus, 'entered' the final stages of the marathon from the crowd, and was raucously cheered before officials realised the hoax and removed him from the track.
400m medallists Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett received life Olympic bans after joking with each other and not facing the US flag during the 'Star Spangled Banner'. Following the bans, and an injury to John Smith, the US had to withdraw from the 4x400m relay.