Not six miles away on the airfield of Furstenfeldbruck, the smoldering ashes of Dachau’s concentration camp lingered.
The 1972 Summer Munich Olympics represented a celebration of life for the first nine days. But on Sept. 5, 1972, the 20th Olympiad became a memory of the dead. Munich would be visited by darkness again.
History has a way of repeating itself through those who forget. And I can’t help but feel that the memories are disappearing and, in time, will be gone from humanity forever.
All 11 Israeli Olympic members seized as hostages at 4:30 a.m. on that awful autumn day were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
Not 30 years after the Holocaust, Jews again were slaughtered on German soil.
Another 30 years have passed since those Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. The opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City, Utah, will spark the 2002 Winter Games today. The tragedy of Sept. 11 is sure to resonate in the minds of all the athletes, coaches and spectators. I’m not so sure the tragedy of Sept. 5, 1972 will be in the minds of very many.
Just as Germany tried to forget its savagery during the Holocaust, it didn’t want to focus on the tragedy happening in its own backyard. International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage declared with a raised fist, “The Games must go on!”
As for the Jews – send them home in coffins. This time they weren’t gassed and burned, they were shot and blown away by PLO fanatics. Thirty-two-year-old weightlifter Yosef Romano died agonizingly, bleeding to death before his helpless teammates.
Yes, the Games must go on.
Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray said that continuing the games was “like having a dance at Dachau.” Only six – including Holland and the United States – of the 123 countries represented at the Games brought wreaths the morning after the murders to Building 31 where the Israeli team had been housed.
And who will care when these 2002 Olympics are over? Will we also soon forget the innocent men and women still buried underneath the rubble of the World Trade Center towers?
Just a few blocks away from the nine Israeli hostages, the athletes in the Olympic Village continued to go along with their routines as if nothing was happening, laughing and blasting music, soaking in the sun.
Sports, which likes to think of itself as apart from the rest of the world, is in fact interlocked with the world. It isn’t enough to condemn terrorists and their sympathizers, nor is it enough to ignore them and to forget their victims.
There are people in this world who will not allow anything innocent to be abstracted from their own suffering. Such people will specifically target anyone or anything that they feel distracts others from their situation. The fact that Jews can be weightlifters, fencing coaches, basketball players or 11-year-old girls sitting in their homes compels terrorists to murder. The very existence of Jews is unacceptable to them.
It is true, from sports to politics to relationships, unjust human suffering transcends everything else. When all is said and done, people frequently lack the audacity and selflessness to care about others.
The world of today shares many of the same problems of 1972, just as the world of 1972 shared many of the same problems of 1942.
In the Feb. 11th issue of Sports Illustrated, there is an advertisement for the Salt Lake City Games showing the 1980 U.S. hockey team celebrating its gold-medal win. Below the partially blurred photo of the players, is the caption, “CELEBRATE HUMANITY.”
Let the games go on.
Eliav Appelbaum is the Daily Nexus sports editor.