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Millennium Post

1972 Olympics: Of blood and carnage

It’s 45 years since the Munich Massacre; Ananya Das writes on the attack and how it changed history of Olympics in 1972.

Adolf Hitler's dreaded reign of terror had ended and after almost 25 years of peace and quiet, Germany was ready to prove to the world that the terrors of yesteryears were done and dusted with. In 1966, Germany launched a bid to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) in Rome, Italy to host the Olympics' game for the second time and the bid was duly accepted.

What was to be the international event of peace, joy, and togetherness, it turned out to be the exact opposite -- as a terrorist attack by the Black September terrorist group marred the Games with blood and gore as the lives of 12 people were forever lost. Even before the Games had started, 1972's Olympics was already dubbed as a stressful one for reasons obvious to all. This was, after all, the first time Germany would host an international event after the death of Adolf Hitler and the pressure was mounting on top of the German officials.

For the athletes who had come to compete in the event, everything seemed quite near perfect and untarnished. Munich was a beautiful city, as is now but for the players; it all seemed like a fairytale that had suddenly come true. So far, Germany was doing well.
On September 5, 1972, came one of the darkest days in the history of sports. The attack took place at 5 in the morning according to witnesses when 8 Black September members entered 31 Connollystrasse where the Israeli delegation was housed. Looking at Connollystrasse today, it seems ordinary, faceless and hollow. It wasn't so back then. Back then, it was marred by blood and unhappiness as 12 Israeli athletes and coaches were shot dead by people whose only aim in life was to kill -- kill for carnage and for spreading unhappiness. Eight Palestinian terrorists wearing ski masks ambushed the Israeli delegation and took them hostage. Negotiations were made to let the hostages go by the German forces but to avail. The terrorists then took the hostages to the Munich airport and there ensued a gun battle with the German police in which two more hostages were killed along with 2 terrorists and a policeman.
What was to be the 'happy games' was now turned into a terrorist investigation with tears and a lot of judgment for the German security team. However, after the attack and its memorial function, the IOC President Avery Brundage announced the games must go on to show terrorists that they had not won, that the sorrow they tried to bring in could not seep through the spirits of those who will forever remember the brave lives they had lost on September 5. After all the horror that the Olympics brought us, it was also a triumphant event for those who had won. The American swimmer Mark Spitz's seven gold medal count and the Russian teenager Olga Korbut's dramatic two gold medal wins stand testament to the fact that terrorism only goes so far and the spirit can never be taken away.
This year, the Munich Massacre turns 45 years old but the memories of those who died bravely linger in our minds forever. The heroes we lost forever that day were Moshe Weinberg, Yossef Ramano, Ze've Friedman, David Berger, Yakov Springer, Eliezer Halfin, Yossef Gutfreund, Kehat Shorr, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer and Amitzur Shapira.

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