Three phrases from ABC-TV’s Jim McKay, delivered at 3:24 a.m. in West Germany, introduced the world to a standstill.
“They’re all gone.”
Useless had been 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the Summer time Olympics in Munich.
It started Sept. 5, 1972, a Tuesday a half-century in the past right now. Simply earlier than daybreak, eight members of a Palestinian terrorist group, aptly known as Black September, broke into the Israelis’ residences within the Olympic village. Two who resisted had been killed in early moments of the assault. 9 others — athletes, coaches and group officers — had been held hostage in a tense standoff that lasted some 18 hours, riveting the world.
McKay anchored ABC’s protection for 14 hours straight. Within the rush to return in on what was alleged to be a welcome off-day on the Video games, he wore his swimsuit underneath his slacks,
Correspondent Dave Dorr wrote for The Sporting Information:
Tuesday, September 5, was to have been a day of relaxation on the Olympic Video games. A day to see the actors at Spielstrasse. Take heed to the flutes. Catch the subway and store in downtown Munich. However when this metropolis awoke from an evening of beer ingesting and gemuetlichkeit, it discovered a military of uniformed males surrounding the eight-foot-high fence of the Olympic village.
That the Olympics could possibly be used as a political device and a public showcase for acts of terrorism was a worry which had been whispered quietly amongst members of the Worldwide Olympic Committee since violence erupted at Mexico Metropolis in 1968.
Late within the night, the terrorists and hostages had been transferred by helicopter from the Olympic village to a army air base, the place they had been to board a aircraft sure for an undetermined Arab nation. A shock rescue try by West German authorities went awry nearly instantly after they underestimated the variety of terrorists. It might be hours, into Sept. 6, earlier than McKay would solemnly affirm the terrible information.
“Our worst fears have been realized tonight,” he mentioned. “They’ve now mentioned that there have been 11 hostages. Two had been killed of their rooms yesterday morning. 9 had been killed on the airport tonight. They’re all gone.”
(All however three of the terrorists had been killed, too. The survivors had been taken into custody, however they had been launched by the West German authorities on Oct. 29, 1972, in alternate for the crew and passengers from a hijacked Lufthansa flight.)
Perceive the in-the-moment U.S. media panorama on the time. No 24-hour information channels, no web, no satellite tv for pc radio. Columnist Joe Falls would write in The Sporting Information: “I left Munich on the morning the killings began within the Olympic village and didn’t know what had occurred till my aircraft flew clear throughout the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Detroit.” Falls lamented lacking “the largest story of my life,” tragic because it was.
On the bottom in West Germany got here the rapid query: What of the Video games?
Columnist Melvin Durslag, on web site in Munich, would write in The Sporting Information: “Understandably, a full of life dialogue developed right here over whether or not the 1972 Olympic Video games ought to have resumed following the unspeakable catastrophe visiting one of many delegations.”
However when the suffocating shock started to put on off, Durslag added, lots of people obtained indignant at themselves.
“Is the world to retreat to an attic?”
The column was a part of The Sporting Information’ protection, signaled on the duvet in all-caps: “OLYMPIC IDEAL BATHED IN GRIEF” although TSN being TSN, the duvet topic was “Thrilling Rookie Carlton Fisk of Pink Sox”.
Inside, Dorr wrote from Munich: “What had been deliberate as a festive second was surrounded by disappointment. For 5 years Germany had labored to make the Munich video games the happiest of all Olympics, searching for to erase perpetually the stigma of 1936 at Berlin and Hitler’s tyranny.”
“If the Olympic motion is to proceed,” mentioned U.S. shot-putter George Woods, a silver medalist, “we’re going to should discover a strategy to hold the politics out. In any other case … nicely, who is aware of?”
However therein lies the basic reality: There is no such thing as a strategy to hold the politics out of the Olympics. They’ve at all times been political and at all times shall be. How else are you able to describe an occasion the place athletes put on their international locations’ colours (or aren’t allowed to put on their nation’s colours), the winners’ nationwide anthems are performed and international locations’ medal counts cyphered?
If not for the horror of Sept. 5, 1972, these Video games 50 years in the past is likely to be remembered for U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz profitable an astounding seven gold medals.
Or Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, the “Sparrow from Minsk,” who received three golds and introduced a heretofore unseen acrobatic fashion to the game.
Or possibly Workforce USA’s disputed loss to the Soviet Union within the males’s basketball gold medal recreation, a shocking finish to America’s streak of 63 consecutive Olympic victories and 7 straight gold medals.
However that might convey world politics again into the dialogue, would not it?
As an alternative, The Sporting Information’ main protection of the 1972 Olympics ran underneath a headline: “Munich: Homicide, Mourning, Medals”.