Munich 1972: A Black September | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 30.07.2008
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Munich 1972: A Black September

The events in the Olympic Village at the 1972 Munich Games and those that followed will forever be remembered over any sporting achievements that year. Munich 1972 will always be synonymous with terrorism and murder.

The Olympic flag, and many others, fly at half mast at the memorial ceremony for the dead Israeli athletes

The Olympic Stadium in Munich went into mourning the day after the massacre

Few people remember much of the sporting aspects of the 1972 Summer games in Munich. The event was totally overshadowed and almost cancelled due to the events of September 5 which led to the death of seventeen people on German soil and countless others in the aftermath as the shockwaves reverberated through the Middle East. The Munich massacre is the blackest mark in Olympic history to date.

The Games were well into their second week and the West German hosts were celebrating what had been until then a successful attempt at putting the militaristic1936 "Nazi" Games behind them. The fact that a team from Israel was taking part only 27 years after the end of World War II had been another reason to believe that the host nation was moving away from an inglorious era in its past.

But the inclusion of the Israelis had brought with it unwanted attention.

The continuing instability in the Middle East and the rise in international terrorism came to a head on September 5 when a group of eight Palestinian terrorists belonging to Black September, a group with alleged ties to the Fatah organization, broke into the Olympic Village and took eleven Israeli athletes hostage in their apartment, killing two during the initial raid.

Black September stand-off

The helicopter which was blown up by the Palestinians

The Israelis were killed when their helicopter was bombed

The situation led to the Games being suspended for a day, the first and only time it has ever happened. During the 18 hour standoff, German security forces tried to secure the release of the athletes and coaches but the terrorists' demands for the release and safe passage to Egypt of 234 Palestinians and non-Arabs jailed in Israel, and the release of German Red Army Faktion terrorists Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof made negotiations difficult.

After agreeing to allow the terrorists and their hostages to board a plane bound for an undetermined Arab country, a botched rescue attempt at the Fuerstenfeldbuck military airport led to the deaths of all the surviving Israeli hostages, five Black September members and a German police officer.

The three surviving terrorists were captured, but were later released by the West German authorities as part of negotiations following the hijacking of a Lufthansa airliner.

The deaths of the Israeli athletes led to a campaign of retaliation by their government with a series of air strikes and assassinations aimed at those Israel claimed were planners of the killings.

IOC president criticized for memorial speech

A member of the Arab Commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team at their quarters at the Munich Olympic Village September 5, 1972 appears with a hood over his face on the balcony of the village building where the commandos held several members of the Israeli team hostage

The Palestinian terrorists held the hostages for 18 hours

A day after the tragedy, a memorial service attended by 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes was held in the Olympic Stadium, during which the IOC President Avery Brundage made a speech which barely mentioned the murdered athletes but instead praised the strength of the Olympic movement.

During the memorial service, the Olympic flag and those of most of the other competing nations were flown at half mast by order of the German Chancellor Willy Brandt. However, ten Arab nations and the Soviet Union refused to comply and their flags flew high.

On September 6, after the memorial service, the remaining members of the Israeli team withdrew from the Games and left Munich.

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