The events at Munich not only had implications for the politics of the Middle East but also for the future of the Olympic movement. The most shocking aspect of the Games was that there was only a day's break to condole the deaths of the 11 Israeli athletes. The then IOC President Avery Brundage was accused by many of putting the sponsors before the feelings of the athletes by refusing to cancel or postpone the Olympics.
"Incredibly, they're going on with it," Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote at the time. "It's almost like having a dance at Dachau."
"Walled off in their dream world," New York Times columnist Red Smith wrote, "appallingly unaware of the realities of life and death, the aging playground directors who conduct this quadrennial muscle dance ruled that a little blood must not be permitted to interrupt play."
Much of what happened in Munich was lost to public memory till 2000 when a new documentary titled One Day in September was released. Directed by Kevin MacDonald and with narration by Michael Douglas, it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. It focusses attention on two key figures wrestling coach Andre Spitzer and terrorist Jamal Al-Gashey. A book by the same name by Simon Reeve traces the quest of Spitzer's wife Ankie to find out the truth about her husband's killers. It also deals with the Israeli counter terrorist operation to bring the killers of Munich to justice. Termed the Wrath of God it succeeded in killing all but one of the terrorists who survived at Munich.
Certain questions about Munich will remain unanswered forever. It is believed that the terrorist disguised as athletes,were unknowingly helped over the fence at the Olympic Village
by an American athlete. The veracity of this story was never ascertained. It is also not clear why the Germans did not allow the Israelis to carry out a rescue operation as they had a crack team of the Mossad
ready and waiting to act. It is believed that Ehud Barak
was a member of the team that stood by and watched helplessly as the German police bungled repeatedly and the hostage situation ended in a bloodbath.
Among the Israeli athletes who escaped while the hostages forced their way into the Israeli quarters was the hurdler Esther Roth, arguably Israel's greatest ever athlete. Among those killed was her coach Amitzur Shapira. Roth had reached the semifinals of the 100m hurdles but withdrew, her blank lane a testimony to the pain of a nation that watched the Olympic spectacle carry on with barely a thought for those who had been massacred. She returned to Montreal in 1976 to become the first ever Israeli athlete to make an Olympic final where she finished sixth. On the 25th anniversary of the massacre she said: "I lost something in Munich...They murdered the Olympic spirit and they killed my career. I went to the next Games because I thought my coach would have wanted me to go to the Olympics again".
In 1999 Abu Daoud, in his Memoirs of a Palestinian terrorist admitted to masterminding the operation. He said that he 'wanted to draw attention to the Palestinian cause'. The families and team mates of those who died in Munich are still seeking justice today. At the memorial in 2002, Ankie Spitzer said "We who have walked the long, lonely dark road for the last 30 years will not forgive the Palestinian terrorists who murdered you and we will not forget the German authorities who did nothing to rescue you." She blasted the International Olympic Committee's failure to pay tribute to the victims at subsequent events and called on it to mention the fallen Israelis in the 2004 Athens Olympics opening ceremony.
Those who died on that black September day in Munich were: Moshe Weinberg, 33, Joseph Romano 32, David Berger, 26, Zeev Friedman, 28, Yacob Springer, 51, Eliezer Halfin, 28, and Mark Slavin, 18, Yosef Gutfreund, 41, Andre Spitzer, 45, Amitzur Shapira, 32 and Kehat Schorr, 53.
It is indeed shocking that not a moment of silence has ever been observed at any Olympic Games since then to honour the memory of these men who died on September 5, 1972.