In 1970, the Women’s Technical Committee published a new version of the Code of Points. Many of the rules had already been in place in the 1968 Code of Points (e.g. only four judges per apparatus instead of the previous norm of five judges per apparatus).
The major change in the English version was the inclusion of stick figure drawings. Let’s take a look at the Code.
In 1968, Romania didn’t send any gymnasts to the Olympic Games ostensibly out of fear of poor performance. In a column for the Romanian newspaper Sportul, Elena Leușteanu, a three-time Olympic bronze medalist in gymnastics, explained that the decision was both a “discreet gesture” and a “diplomatic tactic.”
Our non-participation in gymnastics was actually a discreet gesture and a diplomatic tactic. Discreet gesture — because, by not participating, we were acknowledging, in a way, that the value of our opponents is higher than ours and would have not suited us to make it official, especially in a competition in which a kind of opinion is developed that can be harmful for us for at least two years, if not four years, before the next Olympic competition. Diplomatic tactic — because although we have genuine assets, recognized even at the “Olympic Hope Competition,” their maturation is planned for the next 3-4 years. I think this is the reason that would suit us best and explain our intention to return to the arena of major competitions only when we have a team that can and knows how to keep and conquer new positions aimed at raising the prestige of our gymnastics.
Sportul, March 7, 1969
Neprezentarea noastră la gimnastică a fost de fapt un gest discret și o tactică diplomatică. Gest discret — pentru că prin neparticipare recunoșteam, într-un fel, că valoarea adversarilor este mai bună decît a noastră și acest lucru nu ne-ar fi convenit să-l oficializăm mai ales într-o competiție în care se formează un fel de opinie care ne poate fi dăunătoare cel puțin doi ani înainte, dacă nu patru ani, pînă la viitoarea întrecere olimpică, tactică diplomatică , pentru că deși avem valori autentice, recunoscute chiar la „Concursul speranțelor olimpice“, maturizarea lor este planificată în următorii 3—4 ani. Acesta cred că este motivul care ne-ar prinde cel mai bine și explica de fapt intenția de a reveni în arena marilor concursuri numai atunci cînd vom avea o echipă care să poată și să știe a păstra și cuceri noi poziții menite să ridice prestigiul gimnasticii noastre.
At the 1969 European Championships, the Romanian gymnasts did, in fact, conquer “new positions” — at least compared to recent history. Rodica Apăteanu finished eighth, and Felicia Dornea, the youngest competitor in the competition, finished twelfth. Their finishes were a marked improvement over the 1967 Europeans, where the top Romanian gymnast — Elena Ceampelea — finished seventeenth.
The Romanian press struck an optimistic note after the 1969 Women’s European Championships, calling the gymnasts’ performances a “good omen” for the future. At the same time, there was a bit of blunt criticism, as we will see in the column below.
So what? Why does this matter? It’s important to take the temperature in 1969 so that we can track the rise of Romanian women’s gymnastics from no participation in 1968 to team silver in 1976.
After the USSR Championships in October of 1969, the Moscow newspaper Nedelia interviewed the head coaches of the women’s and men’s national teams: Larisa Latynina and Vladimir Smolevsky.
But instead of asking them about their respective teams, Latynina had to comment on men’s gymnastics, and Smolevsky had to comment on women’s gymnastics. It’s fascinating to see what each coach admires about the other discipline and what irks them, as well. For example, Smolevsky despises “bad ballet” on floor.
What follows is a translation of their remarks. (Thanks to Luba for her assistance.)
The Japanese Gymnastics Association wanted to invite East Germany to a competition with the Soviet Union and the United States. However, Japan did not have diplomatic relations with East Germany until May of 1973.
So, what would happen if an East German gymnast won the competition? Would the meet organizers still hoist the flag for a nation that Japan didn’t recognize?
Unless you lived through the Cold War, it’s hard to imagine the complicated diplomatic hoops countries had to jump through. The following article painstakingly details many of the scenarios that the Japanese meet organizers had to consider when inviting East Germans to a gymnastics competition.
If you were going to remove one event from the men’s program, which would it be?
In 1969, vault in men’s artistic gymnastics was a major sticking point. Gymnasts were performing the same vault over and over, and some thought that the hand zones were pointless. At an FIG coaches’ meeting, some even thought that the apparatus should be eliminated.
Compulsory routines used to change every two years. There would be one set of routines for the World Championships, and then, two years later, there would be a new set of routines for the Olympic Games.
That changed in 1969. Though, the Men’s Technical Committee and Women’s Technical Committee took two divergent paths.
On May 24 and 25, 1969, just months after the Olympic Games, the top male gymnasts in Europe gathered in Warsaw for the European Championships. As expected, the Soviet gymnasts dominated the meet.
In 1969, the rules for the European Championships changed. Each country could send three gymnasts instead of two. (Meanwhile, in women’s artistic gymnastics, countries continued to send only two gymnasts to the European Championships.) But the Soviet gymnasts were unable to sweep the all-around podium because Lisitsky had a major break on pommel horse.