It is a day that will live in infamy, September 5th, 1972 during the Games of the XXth Olympiad, 40 years ago today.
The Summer Games were well into their second week, and I had already been to three football matches, athletics, boxing, hockey and more. It was a festive occasion in the Bavarian capital Munich with its new stadiums, parks, lakes, river, outdoor markets, car free city centre and happy fans.
A couple of days prior to the Opening Ceremony I had been in the famous Hofbrauhaus, the world's most famous beer hall, and there was a bit of a commotion with the Rhodesian Olympic team who had just been kicked out of the Games due to their country's racial policy, and they were getting very drunk.
It was the fourth Olympics that I had attended since Rome 1960, and I had got the gist of how to get into the athletes Olympic Village, as I had done previously in Tokyo, and Mexico City. walking in with athletes at the transport hub outside, with a fake piece of card. Inside there were 5 different restaurants open 24 hours a day, serving Western European, Eastern European, Asian, Latin American and other fare.
In the centre of the village was a signpost, pointing to cities around the world and the distance in kilometres from Munich. This was where everybody met for pin trading, and I was an avid collector. I remember the Soviets festooned like pin cushions with many pins. I swopped a pin with an Israeli athlete, and a few minutes later swopped the Israeli pin with one from a Colombian, thinking the Israeli one would be easier to pick up another day.
WELL, THAT OTHER DAY NEVER CAME !! Others with more sinister ideas had infiltrated the village. After the first week many athletes were finished with competition, were out on the town and came back late and easily climbed over the 2 metre high fence at 4.30am.
Today at Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Base there was a memorial service, with a delegation from Israel, including some survivors from 1972, including fencer Dan Alon. All flags on official buildings in the State of Bavaria were at half mast.
Terrorists from 'Black September' climbed over the fence, dressed in track suits and with duffle bags containing AKM assault rifles, Tokarov pistols and genades, and joined workers in the restaurants who were part of the group. They went to 31 Connollystrasse in the village and murdered two athletes, including the one that I had exchanged pins with. They tied up others and wanted a plane out of the country. Using the underground service road they took the hostages to two helicopters and were flown to the air base to the west of the city. Each of the roads in the village and Olympic Park had been named after former Olympians. James Connolly from Boston won the triple jump in the first modern Olympics in Athens 1896,..the first ever Olympic champion in 2,000 years.
What happened there was a complete disaster. a hastily prepared security force didn't have the correct equipment and no walkie talkies. A decoy Boeing 727 passenger jet was deserted by the air crew who wanted no part of it. There was a shoot out in which 5 of 8 terrorists were killed, plus a Munich policeman, Anton Fliegerbauer, shot in cross fire by his comrades. The surviving terrorists pulled the pin out of hand grenades and lobbed them into the helicopters and the tied up hostages were killed.
Files recently released and show in Der Spiegel magazine talked about a German cover-up, and how ill prepared authorities were. The best written account is the book ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER: Simon Reeve, Arcade Publishers 2000. The Israelis launched Operation WRATH OF GOD to track down surviving terrorists and their helpers. Steven Speilberg's movie MUNICH was released in 2006 about that operation.
David Berger, Ze'ev Friedman, Yossef Gutfreund, Eliezer Halfin, Yossef Romano, Amitzur Shapira, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer, Kehat Shorr, Yakov Springer, Moshe Weinberg. We remember you and will never forget.
Yasser Arafat sent the terrorists on their mission which was financed by MAHMOUD ABBAS who is now 77 years old and the PRESIDENT OF THE PALASTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY, and still breathing!!