Directed by Tony Maylam, White Rock, the official film of the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics, is hosted by American actor James Coburn. Coburn, who had starred in such films as Our Man Flint and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, had a reputation as an amiable, accessible action hero.
Coburn tries out several Winter Olympics roles, riding down a bobsleigh run (“a fast, rough, scary ride”), practicing as a goalkeeper with the Austrian ice hockey team, skiing and shooting on the biathlon course and waxing a ski. He also explains the rules of some events or allows others to explain them to him.
Helmet and body cameras allow us to vicariously experience ski jumping, bobsleigh, luge and downhill skiing. For the downhill sequence, the skier is none other than Karl Schranz, the Austrian hero who was involved in the major controversies of the 1968 and 1972 Winter Games.
Significant coverage of the actual competitions is limited to just five of the 37 events: the 90-meter ski jump, the ice hockey final between the USSR and Czechoslovakia, the biathlon relay, the pairs figure skating performance of Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaytsev, and the men’s downhill. Coburn tells the camera that the winner of the men’s downhill “will receive more adulation and publicity than all other medalists combined.” When Austrian skier Franz Klammer wins the race, Coburn calls him the perfect Olympic champion, “tall, dashing and fearless.”
White Rock is marred by two factual blunders. Coburn praises East Germany for winning all five sled events, luge and bobsleigh, while competing in these sports for the first time. Actually, East Germans had been competing in luge events since the sport was introduced into the Olympic program in 1964.
Late in the film, Coburn tells us that during the ancient games in Delphi, all wars were halted. In reality, wars were not halted, and the ancient Olympics took place not in Delphi, but in Olympia, which is why they’re called the Olympics. The filmmakers seem to have muddled the legend that Iphitos created the Olympic Games after consulting the Oracle of Delphi.