Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Munich Olympics 40 years later

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is a celebration showcasing the best of the Host Nation. It features a parade of all competing nations and the highly anticipated entrance of the Olympic Flame,which ignites the Cauldron and signals the start of the Games.
The eyes of the world will be on London this summer for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games.

The London Games will have a security force of 23,700, according to the British government's most recent report. With a security budget of at least $1.6 billion, the London Games are the largest peacetime security operation in Britain's history. The budget has grown dramatically in the past 40 years, especially since the tragic events at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
It was another time, but in many ways the summer of 1972 was a time much like today. A global recession and fears of inflation dampened worldwide economies. The Cold War was near its height, making Americans uneasy about the future. The United States was winding down a costly, controversial war on the other side of the world.

These had been advertised as the “Friendly Olympics”.

Coming less than 30 years after World War II ended, the choice of Munich as a venue had been controversial from the outset.More than most German cities, Munich had been closely associated with the rise of the Nazi Party. The first concentration camp, Dachau, was located on Munich’s outskirts, and the Israeli team had visited the site just before the opening ceremony.
It was the first time Germany had hosted the Summer Games since 1936 Olympics in Berlin, which were presided over by a confident,  Adolf Hitler. Hoping for forgiveness, the Germans had promoted a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.Now, the image of Jewish athletes with their lives at risk threatened to destroy all that.

Eight Palestinian gunmen from the Black September organization had broken into the Olympic Village. There they seized11 Israeli athletes, coaches and officials in their apartments.
Two of the hostages were slain in the first moments. By the end of the day, the nine other Israeli hostages and all but three of the gunmen would be dead. The stain of that terrible day would remain for decades — on the city of Munich, on German officials and on the Olympic movement’s leadership, which tried to downplay the tragedy.

Forty years later, as we near the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the memory of the Munich Massacre remains etched in our collective memory. Even those who weren’t alive in 1972 can see the legacy of Munich in the fortress of security built around the London Olympics. More than $2 billion will go to trying to make sure such an incident will not, cannot, happen in London. But the legacy cuts much deeper than that. What transpired on that September morning was a loss of innocence and a realization that even a sports event isn’t immune to the reality of the outside world.

The 1972 Summer Games will always be remembered as “the Munich Massacre.”
The image we remember from Munich is the masked gunman, leaning over the apartment balcony, stamping a seal of terror on an event so universally beloved.
“It’s the place we were told there are no wars, no hostilities, people living in the Olympic Village together with no boundaries,” said Efraim Zinger, head of the Olympic Committee of Israel. “It was a breaking of a kind of a dream. One morning we woke up, it was kind of a nightmare.”

So in London this summer, more than 10,000  of the world’s greatest athletes will congregate. And, there’s a chance they will bring with them the world’s worst problems. Yet the athletes will still come, and so will millions of spectators.
The events of 1972, were a jarring reminder that, despite the dreams of its founders, the Olympics cannot be separated from global politics.
Four decades later, security has become as integral a part of the games as the athletes, spectators and media. The British expect to spend more than $1.6 billion to protect this summer’s games. In the 4 decades since the 1972 Olympic Games, the families of the slain Israeli Olympians have repeatedly requested a moment of silence in memory of the massacre. Hopefully, this year, their request will be honored.  

1 comment:

  1. It is so very painful to live in a world that seems to love terror and hatred and clings to these over love and true acceptance (which beats that word 'tolerance' any day!) I join with you in the hope that this year's Olympics can overcome barriers and showcase what is good and right and lovely among us...Nice post!