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40th anniversary - Games of the XX. Olympiade in München 1972


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Sorry for the double post - I'm sitting in an ICE (German high speed train) to Berlin - and there was a problem with my wifi connection...

I am reading an interesting article about the terror attack on the Olympic Games in Munich on today's Süddeutsche Zeitung (reliable newspaper from Munich).

In this article it is mentioned that on Aug 11th 1972 a telex from the German embassy in Beirut was received in Bonn in which it was warned that the Palestinians are might doing a terror attack during the games and that in 1970 the German police warned that the peaceful Games might be disturbed by Palestinians, militant hippies, anti-olympic women rights activists and a Brazilian call girl ring...

Interestingly the world press went nuts when the police wanted to do patrouills with dogs an area, which was used for the Olympic Games, in the months before the Games, since the area was at a street, which goes to the concentration camp Dachau

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Yes, it's always stunning how naive and careless the organisers were in terms of security. Terrorism was already a known phenomenon, due to the Black September in 1970. And a criminal psychologist, Georg Sieber, even had a Palastinian terrorist attack in the Olympic Village on his list of possible security problems during the Games. When he presented that scenario to the organisers in February 1972, Munich's police chief Manfred Schreiber cut him off and said "This is not on our agenda. We don't need this." Georg Sieber quit his job for the Munich police already on September 5, the day of the terrorist attack.

The organisers had good intentions, namely setting a counterpoint to the Berlin 1936 Olympics by creating a light, happy and civil atmosphere at the Munich Games. But they were too eager in doing so, and therefore didn't want to see how violent the world was already back then.

However, while this will always be the dark shadow above the Munich Games, we should remember that those Games had so many more happy and festive moments, starting with the opening ceremony exactly 40 years ago.

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It is such a pity that Munich will always be associated with the attack. When I was a small child we visited the Olympiapark and I still remember being astonished. And even as an adult, I still think the park plan has an elegance, delicacy and an architectural unity never bettered. The Olympiastadion is dug out of the ground, and has authority without being imposing and the view south from the Olympiaturm is something special, especially if the sun catches the snow on the tops of the Karwendel. Munich tends to be my 'home' airport for visiting family and it's also wonderful from the air.

I would love to see the opening ceremony - I've been told it's heavy on 'Bavarian-ness' ???

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It is such a pity that Munich will always be associated with the attack. When I was a small child we visited the Olympiapark and I still remember being astonished. And even as an adult, I still think the park plan has an elegance, delicacy and an architectural unity never bettered. The Olympiastadion is dug out of the ground, and has authority without being imposing and the view south from the Olympiaturm is something special, especially if the sun catches the snow on the tops of the Karwendel. Munich tends to be my 'home' airport for visiting family and it's also wonderful from the air.

I would love to see the opening ceremony - I've been told it's heavy on 'Bavarian-ness' ???

Without the tragic events of "that day in September", Munich 1972 would genuinely have been remembered as "the Happy Games". There were so many athletic feats and impressive sportspeople (Mark Spitz, Ulrike Meyfarth, Olga Korbut), flanked by an Olympic Park whose architectural beauty is only surpassed by their legacy - a term whose meaning Munich actively embraced well before it became an en vogue term amongst the members of the International Olympic Committee. I wasn't even alive at the time, but even I appreciate the great things of these Games.

In terms of security, maybe we Germans needed that shock to wake up to the realities of the world outside and the threats it already presented. I genuinely hope that we shall learn the lessons of Munich for a future Summer Games and include the right people in the planning from Day One. Unlike some Germans, I'm not afraid of our armed forces - they're a part of a healthy, democratic society and have proven their loyalty to our democracy time and again. London demonstrated the capacity of army units to be courteous and efficient. If they're the best ones to keep us safe at a future Olympics, then so be it. Let's do everything to prevent a future Fürstenfeldbruck in Germany again.

It's a shame that the actions of a few misguided terrorists have cast a pall over a sporting event that was all about the spirit of sportsmanship and the honour of everyone's teams.

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I would love to see the opening ceremony - I've been told it's heavy on 'Bavarian-ness' ???

The complete opening ceremony is out there on YouTube - and no, it wasn't heavy on Bavarian-ness. In fact, the only Bavarian element was during the flag handover from Mexico City when they had "Schuhplattler" and "Goißlschnalzer" performing as a welcome for the Olympic Flag. The other Bavarian elements were the alphorns that are visible shortly before the start of the ceremony. Originally, they should play when German president Gustav Heinemann entered the stadium, but apparently they weren't cued properly and therefore never were heard.

See for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LA8b7zifqA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDZIA9b3Pbo&feature=relmfu

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Thanks - what a good ceremony, simple but never boring, and there's nothing like schnalzing a Goaßl, except perhaps, a Mexican Hat Dance. It was before I born and yet the stadium still looks innovative and exciting in the clips.

The Athletes Parade was fantastic, A salute to man made fibres as well as that special brand of elevator music unique to Mitteleuropa, sadly dying out. It reminded me of a particularly cheesy Fasnacht somewhere (sort of like mardi gras but for stodgy Teutonic types). Superb stuff. And no announcer simultaneous translations thank god.

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A sad Games because of the massacre, but other than security, so much of what Munich organizers did was quite right. The logo, branding, stadium, venues and ceremonies were quite innovative and stand the test of time. OK, maybe those ceremonies today would be called boring by comparison to the increasingly grander extravaganzas post-Moscow 1980, but they had great timing/flow and fitting music for the time.

I do believe that Munich will become the first city to host both Summer and Winter Games - and if in 2022, it would be on the 50th anniversary year.

And maybe once more Team Canada could bring back the Bavarian Pimp look.

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Starting tonight, for those in the U.S., ESPN Classic will be airing a number of programs on the Munich Olympics. Tonight's programs are about the U.S. gymnastics team and Olga Korbut, and over the next two weeks, they'll have programs on the U.S. basketball team, swimming and diving, track, wrestling, and the Israeli massacre. I'm assuming these programs will be from ABC's footage of the Munich Games, much of which I've never seen before.

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I read an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung during my train ride to Berlin yesterday, that a guy had the opportunity to light a splint with the Olympic Fire during the torch relay on 25th August 1972 (there was a torch bearer change directly in front of his house) - he saves the light since then in a pit lamp run by rapeseed oil...

Süddeutsche Zeitung: Olympische Spiele 1972 - Feuer und Flamme

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Today it would probably be impossible to steal a part of the flame, due to the security staff accompanying the torch relays and due to legal reasons. I bet the IOC wouldn't like it if someone kept a part of "its" flame for himself.

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I posted my thoughts on the other thread yesterday Have taken the liberty of reproducing them here as this seems to be the thread most posters are using for this subject:

Munich 1972 was the first Olympic Games I watched in any great detail. I recall how much I enjoyed the Opening Ceremony and the general look of the stadium and venues and the brilliant atmosphere. One could sense how much effort Munich and the Germans had put into this event to banish the memory of the 'Nazi' Berlin Olympics of 1936 and they so very nearly succeeded but for the terrible tragedy of the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes.

Even this tragedy could not banish the memory of so many great sporting performances from the likes of Mark Spitz, Olga Korbut, Valery Borzov and, for us Brits in particular, Mary Peters narrowly beating Heide Rosendahl to win the Penthalon at the 'venerable' age of 33!

Munich '72 evokes so many memories for me, both great and sad. It made such an impression on me that I remember wishing we could hold them in the UK at some time in the near future. Little did I realise that it would take 40 years to happen but it was worth it. Thank you Munich 1972!

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It's September 5 now - only a few hours later on this day exactly 40 years ago, the Palestinian terrorists climbed over the Olympic Village's fence to start their terrible mission and the most terrible day in Olympic history.

Their victims shall never be forgotten:

David Berger

Ze'ev Friedman

Yossef Gutfreund

Eliezer Halfin

Yossef Romano

Amitzur Shapira

Kehat Shorr

Mark Slavin

Andre Spitzer

Yakov Springer

Moshe Weinberg

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There'll be a commemoration at 4 p.m. local time Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base today, the place where the hostage ended violently. It will be broadcast live on Bavarian Television which will show also other programmes commemorating the events of September 5, 1972.

I have to say, though, that I haven't seen any media reports yet that commemorate the attack. But September 5 only has begun, I expect that more will come in the course of the day.

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Here a gallery of the memorial service today: BR - Ein Attentat, das die Welt bis heute bewegt

And the BBC reporting on it as well...

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40 years ago to this day, one day later than originally scheduled, the Munich 1972 Games ended. It was a farewell with mixed emotions of course, and it was even overshadowed by the fear of another terrorist attack when air traffic control lost contact to a Finnish DC-9 and thought that it might be a hi-jacked plane that could crash or throw bombs into the Olympic Stadium during the closing ceremony. Luckily, the DC-9 could be identified in time before it would have been shot down - and the stadium's PA announcer Joachim Fuchsberger also kept calm and didn't mention the incident to the audience, thereby avoiding a mass panic.

In the end, while they honoured the victims with a moment of silence and with a slimmed-down cultural programme, the closing ceremony ended on a serene note. Here are excerpts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_oG-6SM5-4

It's a video made for the 25th anniversary of the Games in 1997. In the beginning, you see the PA announcer Joachim Fuchsberger to the right, he explains how he experienced the closing ceremony and the fear of another terrorist attack.

Translation of the interview

Eberhard Stanjek, interviewer and ARD sports journalist who broadcasted from the Munich 1972 Games: The closing ceremony had a bit of a strange character: In my memory, it was of course burdened by the events, but nevertheless carried by a totally natural joy and spontaneousness especially of the athletes, while for you up there in the announcer booth an incredible thing happened during that ceremony, a thing that hardly anyone knows about.

Joachim Fuchsberger: One demanded of me the most difficult decision I ever had to make in my life as actor. When does an actor ever have to decide whether people could be harmed, even die or anything like that?

I sat up there, still with that feeling "Will this be a closing celebration after all that has happened?" All that we had planned for wasn't possible anymore, the dancers weren't allowed to dance, they had to stand down there like frozen, and we simply tried to scratch along the whole thing as good as possible.

And I observed very attentively what happened around me, and suddenly unsettledness broke out. To my right there sat the federal army people in charge of security, to my left there sat August Everding who was the director of the ceremony. And I noticed, something is happening there. Then I looked down to the VIP box and noticed that one head of state and politician after the other were taken out of the VIP box, and something was happening.

And then I saw August Everding getting up and approaching my glass booth - I was locked in, you know - and he pressed a piece of paper against the pane, and I was forced to leave the microphone, go to the pane and read and then I read that incredible sentence, "Two unidentified flight objects approaching the Olympic Stadium, possibly bomb attack, say what you deem appropriate." Then I opened the door, Everding came in, and he said "What do we do know?"

And I knew, I won't do anything. I had two possibilities: To say to those 70,000 people, "Leave the stadium as quickly as possible". I could imagine what could have happened in such a situation after all that had been, and I simply didn't want to take the responsibility that hopefully nothing will happen at all, but then there will be people lying down there, trampled, injured, maybe even killed in that panic. And I decided to say nothing, according to the principle that which must not, can not be. Eberhard, thank God!

Eberhard Stanjek: We'll now watch some footage of that closing ceremony which, I say it again, then nevertheless had a very beautiful and reconciliatory ending.

Joachim Fuchsberger: Yes.

Translation of the announcements and speeches (after 3:00):

Joachim Fuchsberger, PA announcer: The hour of parting has arrived. The athletes bid farewell to us and we to them.

Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee: On behalf of the International Olympic Committee, I offer our sincere gratitude for the Games to the President, Mr. Gustav Heinemann, and the German people as well as to the local government of Munich and the organising committee. (Closing formula in English) Dear citizens of Munich, your cordial and amiable hospitality has moved us deeply. Together, we celebrated the days of shining joy and together with you, we endured the difficult hours of profoundest darkness. The time of parting has come. We return to our homes and call out to you all: Auf Wiedersehen!

Joachim Fuchsberger, PA announcer: Dear guests, dear citizens of Munich! That was the last official act of the outgoing 85-year-old IOC president. 60 years of his life were dedicated to the Olympic idea. At this moment, we want to thank him. Thank you, Avery Brundage!

The Olympic Flame burned for 17 days. Now it will be extinguished.

(Memory of the victims, in German, French and English)

Through the torchbearers' guard of honour, the athletes will leave the stadium for the last time. And now I kindly request you, ladies and gentlemen, to wave goodbye to the participants and the world with your flashlights.

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Translation of the inteview at the end:

Eberhard Stanjek: I don't know how you feel about that. But despite all the terrible things that happened, I have good memories of these Olympic Games 25 years ago.

Joachim Fuchsberger: Eberhard, I think that we human beings are constructed in such fashion that we rather remember the nice things and block out the bad things. I personally have incredibly positive memories of the Munich 72 Games, of the joy, of the harmony between the people, of the uniting things, something that has become so rare these days. I still view the Games, and I still have them in front of my inner eye very often, as happy and serene Games, without ever being able to forget until the end of my life what else happened back then.

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I'd like to mention my thoughts of the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.

Firstly, I think the context of which they were held shoud be noted. West Germany, a new Germany, showing its friendly face to the world after the events of 1936 and the Holocaust was obviously evident in the lax security. We need to remember that while terrorism was an issue in 1972, nobody thought the Olympic Games would be targeted in such a brazen way.. even though there was even a noted risk during the 1968 Olympics with student tensions. If Munich 1972 massacre didn't happen - it could have been Montreal, Detroit, Mexico City or Grenoble or somewhere else- but I think the slaughter of Israelis in Germany was far too much for the fundamentalists to resist. This aspect compounded the tragedy.

The massacre and security aside, I think Munich 1972 were a remarkable Games, a watershed for the Olympic movement in both good and bad ways. The good was that the Olympics gave the City of Munich a physical legacy that endures do this day as a pinncle of what to strive towards. The branding remains some of the coolest ever, and the venues design can still compete with what we have in 2012. You cannot deny that it was even a model for the redevelopment of Stratford. It is a seriously iconic mark in urban planning history. This is why I hope so much that Munich puts forward a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, to bring even more Olympic history to this site.

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