The Olympic Games of 1972 were awarded to Munich and were to be somewhat different to the 1936 Olympic Games in Hitlers Berlin, with their harsh red,white and black themes and swastikas everywhere, and the Winds of War not far away. They were nicknamed The Happy Games, with a lovable dachshund called Waldi as the mascot.
I had visited Berlin's Olympiastadion years ago and sat in the tribune of honour where Hitler had sat on his brief visits during those Games to write an article about my thoughts. The stadium was then an open bowl with a running track but has since been redesigned with a roof for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Jesse Owens had made a mockery of the Nazi party's racial purity ideas and the German soccer team had lost 0-2 to Norway in the quarter final at the PostStadion.
The 1972 Games of the XX Olympiad were in Munich after winning the vote over Detroit, Madrid and Montreal, and had the most pleasant of facilities, Olympiapark, with its translucent roofs of the main stadium, the swimming hall and the boxing arena, with a pleasant park and lake and great U bahn access from downtown Munchen. Across the ring road was the Olympic Village, now housing many German families. I had been to track and field, boxing, hockey and soccer, watching USA's amateurs tie 0-0 with Morocco in Augsburg, lose 0-3 to Malaysia in Ingolstadt and get smashed by the professionals of West Germany in the Olympiastadion, Munchen 7-0. Goalie Shep Messing never stood a chance. Even the waiters at the Olympic Village challenged the Americans to a match. The Germans including Uli Hoeness were being paid via Adidas into Swiss bank accounts and retaining their amateur status.The Americans were on college scholarships.
I frequently managed to get into the Olympic Village and meet up with friends by walking in with the athletes, tying a piece of string to a piece of coloured cardboard, or borrowing a hockey stick from a British athlete, or walk in backwards signing autographs. Once inside the huge village, with 10 to 3 storey high apartment blocks, there were 5 x 24 hour restaurants offering free food and drink in various cuisines, Western Europe, Latin American, Chinese, Middle Eastern etc. There was a training track, shops, a disco and Adidas and Puma had set up shop where they gave away gear. Until that time they only had shoes, but at the 1972 Games Adidas got into clothing and offered warm up suits with the new Trefoil Swedish inspired logo.
At the Hofbrauhaus the famous beer hall, the Rhodesian delegation was downing a few mas biers after getting thrown out of the Olympics for their racial policy. It was fun to hang around under the gigantic signpost in the village that gave distances to foreign cities, Nairobi, Lima,, Los Angeles, Moscow, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Bombay.... I collected pins from the various delegations and this is where the swopping took place. The Soviets always had pockets full of pins and would usually accept 3 for 1. I swapped an Israeli pin and a few minutes later swopped that from a Colombian one. There were plenty of friendly Israeli athletes around so I could get one the next day, easy!!
However, it was not to be. The athletes, after this first week, started going out into Munich late at night and coming back and climbing over the 6 1/2 foot high perimeter chain link fence of the Village without any problem. The swimming competition was over with Mark Spitz winning 7 gold medals, all in world record time. It was no problem either for 5 members of the Palastine Black September terrorists either. One of the waiters in the village was 'a plant', and at 3.00am in the middle of the night the terrorists climbed over the fence,(helped by returning USA revellers) wearing their warm up suits as the village slept. Black September, formed in 1970 after King Hussein of Jordan had kicked out radical Palestinians trying to take over his small kingdom, was part of Yassar Arrafat's Feyadeen. and led by Abu Duoud.
They knocked on the door of apartment 1 at 31 Connollystrasse in the village, a 3 storey block.All the roads, squares and areas of both the Olympiapark and the village had been named after past Olympic champions and dignatories. Harald Connolly was an American who had won the hammer gold medal in 1956 and his wife Olga the discus. Moshe Weinberg, 32, an Israeli wrestling coach answered a knock on the door. He realised the problem, shouted to his delegation who where in No 1, 2, 3 apartments and some escaped. Joseph Romano, a huge weighlifter barred the door, but was shot through the door and the terrorists entered. I had swapped pins with him 2 days before. The athletes were shot or tied up and the terrorists, on world wide TV due to ABC televsions presence in the vilalge high above on a large block, started the negotiations. Munich police chief Manfred Schneider assembled a force of 600 and a Kristentab (crisis centre) 200 meters away.
The terrorists had asked for the release of 234 Arab prisooners in Israeli jails and 2 terrorist leaders in a Frankfurt prison. Eventually they took their hostages under the bowels of the village in 2 green police VW vans to a helicipter pad.
Last week in Munich I walked that same route once again. You catch the U 3 Orange Line from the city centre to Olympiapark and just as you leave the station, Connollystrasse is the first street of the Olympia Dorf(Olympic Village). There is a memorial plaque in Hebrew and German now.The helicopters took off for nearby Furstenfeldbruck NATO air base, with journalists scrambling to catch up. There the German police had set up an ambush and a 707 aircraft that was supposed to take the terrorists safely to Egypt. The crew got cold feet and refused the assigment. The Germans didn't have walkie talkies and couldn't communicate with their colleagues in the grass on the other side of the helicopters from the control tower where their marksmen were. A shootout began, one of the Germans was killed by his colleagues, a grenade was thrown into 1 helicopter with the tied up and blindfolded hostages, and the terrorists shot those in the other aircraft. 11 Israeli's 5 terrorists and 1 German died. I did an interview on ABC TV about my thoughts.
In October the PLO hijacked a Lufthansa jet, and the 3 terrorists who had been captured were exchanged. There is rumour that West Germany 'set-up' the hijack. Israeli Prime Minister Golde Meir, born in Ukraine but brought up in Milwaukee, WI,, set up The Wrath of God and went after the terrorists wherever they were in the world. through Mossad. 8 who were involved in the Munich slaughter were killed and also 4 other terrorists. Abu Duoud was awarded a Literature prize in Palestine and went into hiding.