Above/featured: Munich’s Olympic Park: Olympic Tower and the tent roof structure.
In my hockey-mad nation of birth, September 1972 is defined by the epic hockey Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union; the games and individual stories are stuff of legends. But high on my mind since childhood have been the tragic events that same month in Munich: the worst terrorist act in modern Olympics history.
The 20th Summer Olympics were under way in Munich, Germany, and “The Carefree Games” as they were called were the first summer games held in Germany since Berlin in 1936. Both Munich and Germany wanted to show a different peaceful and prosperous side to the world with the generation born after the Second World War.
However, the 1972 Games will also carry the stain of the “Munich Massacre” on 5-6 September. By crisis’ end, the 17 dead included eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team, one German police officer, and five Palestinian kidnappers. Many questions remained about pre-Game preparations and warnings about a possible attack, security measures, crisis management, and the failed attempt to liberate the hostages. Complete details of events remain murky even after 40 years. The disaster would damage the reputations of city, state, and country as well as international relations for years to come.