He ripped off his shirt, grabbed a German flag and then ran down the track, leaping over some hurdles that had been set out for the women's final, then went into the stands.
"It's just amazing," said Harting, a two-time world champion. "I've dreamed of this since I was 12 years old."
Harting won with a best mark of 68.27 meters and continued an unbeaten record that dates back to August 2010.
Ehsan Hadadi of Iran finished with silver, an improvement on his bronze at the world championships last year, with a throw of 68.18 and 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter of Estonia took bronze with 68.03.
Harting was trailing until the fifth round in the final after Hadadi set the early mark with his best throw on his first attempt.
"It was so hard as my beginning was bad," Harting said. "It got better and in the end I was lucky."
Hadadi was congratulated Harting, but was disappointed with the silver medal.
"It shouldn't be silver, it should be gold," he said. "I respect (Harting) and I'm happy for him. But if I had his equipment, I could throw 85 meters, not 65.
"I was practicing to break the Olympic record but, unfortunately, I could not even manage to win the gold."
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