Sport on TV: Flower power that turned to terror on the Olympic stage
Saturday 08 December 2007
When the Olympic Games came to Munich in 1972 the world still smelt of the late Sixties a bouquet of flower power with grace notes of bloody protest. Global terrorism was still in the future, but only by a matter of days, and Olympic Massacre: The True Story (Five, Tuesday), which told the story of the Black September attack on the Israeli athletes, was replete with dramatic irony.
"The opening ceremony was just peace, joy and love," said Joachim Fuchsberger, the Olympic Stadium announcer, while for Ankie Spitzer, wife of the Israeli fencing coach, Andre, the first days of the Games were idyllic: "Every day we went to competitions, we walked about the village, we went to movies, there were jam sessions..." It was the Garden of Eden before the serpent showed up.
The security arrangements were surreal, the idea being to smother protests with love. Manfred Schreiber, the chief of police, described the pre-Games security discussions, such as they were. He had 2,000 unarmed officers with no specialist training, and decided it would be best if they didn't enter the Village at all. In the event of any demos there were plans to shoot candy from Mardi Gras cannons, throw nets over protesters or have policewomen approach them brandishing bunches of flowers. Best of all was the scheme to assemble squads of Dachshund trained to surround protestors and bark at them, disarming them with laughter.
There had been a bit of joined-up thinking; police psychologists had prepared reports on how Palestinian terrorists operated but Manfred Schreiber was having none of it. "Shrinks are just a pain in the arse," he said.
There have been several TV documentaries, as well as the Oscar-winning One Day In September, so the police force's naivete and incompetence that led directly to the slaughter on the runway is familiar material by now. But the details like no police marksmen in the whole of Germany and the personal testimonies of the survivors and the bereaved, brought it to life.
They each had their own worst moment. For Ankie Spitzer it was seeing Andre at the window of the apartment talking to the police below with a gun to his head, "blind without his glasses and stripped of his clothes it's the most painful memory I have."
For Klaus Bechler, one of the helicopter pilots who took the terrorists and hostages to the airfield, there are several candidates for worst moment. There was seeing the Israelis coming off the bus, tied together with red rope "it was an awful picture, horrible" but that was exceeded when the shooting started and the terrorists began killing the hostages.
"I heard them screaming in my helicopter," he said. "There was one who wasn't dead yet. He kept on screaming. He screamed for a long time." The three surviving terrorists were shipped out to Tripoli and welcomed as heroes. The bereaved were compensated. In 2004.
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