Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
A terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich resulted in the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. While the games did continue after the horrific events, they were a subdued affair, with most of the spirit of international competition evaporated. Two excerpts from The Post of Sept. 6, 1972:
An international drama of politics and violence at the Olympic Village in Munich, West Germany, yesterday ended in widespread death.
Eleven members of Israel's delegation to the Olympic Games were killed -- two of them in a pre-dawn raid on their quarters by a band of Arab terrorists and nine others in a shoot-out between the terrorists and German police at a nearby airport. Four of the terrorists also died at the airport and three others were captured.
The tragedy was the latest -- and the most spectacular -- intrusion of international politics into the Olympic scene.
Willi Daume, president of the West German Olympic organizing committee, announced in Munich that he would ask the International Olympic Committee to meet today to decide whether the current Olympics should continue.
"I would find it very difficult to recommend that the Olympics continue," he told a press conference.
The Arab guerrillas, part of an organization known as the "Black September Group," had staged the raid in an effort to grab some public attention to force the government of Israel to release 200 "political" prisoners. It was but one in a series of acts of terrorism by Arab guerrillas whose goal is to drive the Israelis out of the Middle East.
For the Olympic Games, the tragedy was a taint perhaps beyond repair.
Never before had international political intrigue intruded so deeply into what are essentially athletic competitions. Previous attempts to use the Games to advance political goals had never brought a halt to the contests, although the Games have long been heavily politicized.
The impact of the bizarre day of terror was felt around the world. It was denounced in most national capitals, and one Arab nation, Egypt, withdrew its team from further participation in the Olympics.
There was debate about how the incident would affect Arab-Israeli relations, the Middle East cauldron and even the American presidential campaign.
In the United States, public attention was diverted almost totally to the scene in Munich.
The mood of the 10,000 inhabitants of the Olympic Village shifted from shock to moments of fright to depression as the day wore on.
Some of the athletes were ready to go home and forget about the medals they had come to win -- and that was before the reports began to come in of the slaughter at the airport.
By William Gildea
Washington Post Staff Writer
MUNICH, Sept. 5
Suddenly, nothing that happened before seemed important. Everybody stopped counting Mark Spitz's medals. No one mentioned the U.S. sprinters who failed to get to the starting line. Swimmer Rick DeMont's positive doping test might as well have been negative.
Spectators streamed out of the Olympic venues as loud-speakers blared, "The Olympic Games have been suspended." By the thousands, they took up positions along the wire fence surrounding the Olympic Village. Most of them just stood there, silently, staring at the building where the Israelis were held hostage.
For many, the vigil lasted all day, and into the night. "Those poor guys in there, what must they be thinking about, not knowing who's going to die next?" a woman wondered.
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com