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Books – Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games

Books – Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games

A hostage taker looking over the balcony of the Israeli team quarters at Building 31 of the Munich Olympic Village.

Everyone knows about the ‘Munich Massacre of ‘72’: a group Isreali Olympic athletes were taken hostage by Palestian terrorists. Eleven of them were murdered. In “Munich1972”, David Clay Large examines the 1972 Olympics within its larger historical context that is still relevant today.

When it became apparent that Munich would be the host city of the 1972 Olympics, much effort was put into presenting West-Germany as a liberal,  friendly nation, and, in particular, to distinguish it from the Berlin 1936 summer games that had been controlled by the Nazi’s. Because the 1936 games had had an oppressive character with heavy security, German officials erred on the side of putting basically unarmed men to guard the Olympic village. This downplaying of security, Large argues, helped set the stage for the hostage crisis.

Large does not overlook other, more bright aspects of the ’72 Olympics: he for example mentions swimmer Mark Spitze’s seven gold medals and Olga Korbut’s gymnastic triumphs. Overall, “Munich1972”is not just about the Munich 1972 games, but also an account of shifting international pressures and the effects that historical and social conflicts can have, even on so-called apolitical events.

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