Terrorism in Atlanta recalls Olympic massacre in Munich 11 Israeli athletes, coaches died in '72 terrorist raid

July 28, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The bombing that struck Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta early yesterday morning is not the first terrorist act committed at the Games. Twenty-four years ago, Palestinian extremists invaded the Olympic Village in Munich, and, in the aftermath, 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed.

Some would argue that the Games were never the same after that massacre and the insensitive reaction of Avery Brundage, head of the International Olympic Committee.

In his speech at the memorial service for the athletes, Brundage paid more attention to his concern that the tragedy not affect the Olympic movement than to mourning the deaths of the Israelis.

The tragedy's effects linger. Fourteen relatives of the Munich victims came to Atlanta hoping for a mention at the opening ceremonies, and heard none.

The 1972 Munich tragedy began in the waning moments of a long Labor Day weekend when eight members of the Black September gang made their way into Building 31 at the Olympic Village and pushed Middle East politics into the Games.

At 4: 30 a.m. Munich time on Tuesday, Sept. 5, there came a knock on a door, then the sounds of a forced entry. Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg screamed to his roommates to flee and was gunned down as he tried to barricade the door. A weightlifting coach leapt to a balcony below and safety.

Taken captive were a wrestler, four weightlifters and five other coaches. The weightlifters included David Berger, a native of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Weinberg's body was later thrown into a hall. One other Israeli was killed sometime in the morning hours.

The terrorists demanded the release of 200 prisoners from jails in Israel and safe passage out of Germany by 5 p.m., and threatened to kill a hostage every hour unless their demands were met.

Deadlines came and went, and the Games went on. Teofilo Stevenson, then a little-known Cuban heavyweight, dismantled America's latest great white hope, Duane Bobick, in an afternoon boxing bout.

Finally, the International Olympic Committee canceled the evening's competition and scheduled a memorial service at Olympic Stadium for the next morning.

Shortly after 10: 30 p.m., the terrorists and nine remaining hostages were moved to Furstenfeldbruck, an air base outside Munich.

Initial news reports were overly optimistic. But as the night wore on, the grisly facts from Furstenfeldbruck became known. West German sharpshooters killed three terrorists, setting off a two-hour gun battle. Two other terrorists were killed, along with a Munich police officer. Also killed were the remaining hostages.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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