The Largest Terrorism Attack at the Olympics
More than forty years ago the Olympics changed forever. The games are based on the tenets of fair play, teamwork, diligence, committment and hard work. They are perceived as an event where elite athletes compete on a level playing field, free from the conflicts or race, religion or politics.
The Munich Olympic Games were held between August 26 and September 11, 1972.
Midway through the games Palestinian terrorists kidnapped Israeli athletes and coaches.
The ensuing murders and retaliations made future Olympic organizers put a high priority on security for the games. The bill for security at the 2012 Olympics in London is expected to reach $1 billion.
The vast majority of the 17,000 athletes competing in the London olympics weren't alive in 1972 but the legacy of the Munich Massacre continues to impact them today.
The Munich Massacre - Kidnapping
That changed on September 5th, 1972.
Just before 5 a.m. five members of Black September, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. scaled the six foot wall surrounding the athletes village. They were seen by several witnesses who thought nothing was out of the ordinary. The men were wearing track suits. Their weapons were hidden in gym bags.
They were met inside the wall by three other men who had obtained credentials allowing them to gain access to the village.
The group used stolen keys to gain entrance to the two apartments used by the Israeli team. A weightlifter and a wrestling coach attacked and wounded two of the intruders. They were shot to death. Several members of the team escaped. Nine were taken hostage.
Hours of tense negotiations began. The world was left to speculate.
German police entered the village to attempt a recuse, but were pulled back when it was deemed the plan was too risky.
Camera crews were placed on the roof of a nearby apartment and the world watched the drama unfold.
The Munich Massacre - Failed Rescue
During the negotiations a complex plan was put in place.
The group travelled from the village by bus and on to the air base by a military helicopter.
German sharpshooters were put in place to shoot the kidnappers when they arrived at Firstenfeldbruck. Unfortunately they were only expecting five men, not eight.
The chopper touched down at 10:30 pm and a bloody firefight ensued.
At 11 pm a media report was released saying the hostages had been rescued. The world breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Around midnight fresh fighting broke out.
One of the helicopters was destroyed by a terrorist grenade. The hostages inside the other helicopter were shot to death by one of the kidnappers.
At the end of the ordeal, 11 Israelis, one German policeman and five terrorists were dead.
Three of the kidnappers were captured but a month later terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa jet and demanded the killers be released.
The story was far from over. How the Israelis hunted down the criminals is a gripping tale in itself.