David Clay Large's book, "Munich 1972", is a well-written examination of the 1972 Olympics. Beginning with the background of the games - why was Munich chosen as the host city, particularly after the memories of the Berlin 1936 Summer games - and how did internal West German politics play out in the "landing" of the Games. The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG - West Germany) was in heated competition with the German Democratic Republic (GDR - East Germany) on a whole range of issues, beginning with the "politics of sport" and ending with the "sport of politics". And if the two Germanys were at odds, so were various other countries and political systems. The sentiment of Muncheners was not always in favor of hosting the Games; cost overruns, overcrowding, and just general disruptions of daily activities during the Games clouded the positives that came with the "honor" of being awarded the 1972 Olympic games. But, as is usually the case, the politicians won out and Munich was chosen.
In the six year run-up to the Olympics, factions worked together on all parts of the presentation of the games. Special thought was given to security at the games but the memories of the Berlin 1936 games with oppressive, heavy security was also in the mix. No one wanted a repeat of those games and so police and other Munich officials erred on the side of putting basically unarmed men as guards at the Olympic village for these "friendly" Olympics. The Village itself was not surrounded by high fences and there was little stopping of athletes coming and going. All was going well until the evening of September 5th.
I think people today have tended to forget the terror groups who were active in the 1970's and 1980's. Certainly there were many; the list included German radicals, the IRA, and, of course, Arabs protesting Jordan's King Hussein, Egypt, and Israel. It was "Black September", whose murky origins and beliefs were splayed onto the front pages of newspapers and televisions world-wide, who kidnapped and murdered nine Israeli athletes from their apartments in the Olympic Village. Helped along by the inept response of the German government security services, the world was again looking at Jews murdered on German soil. The powers-that-be of the games - Avery Brundage among them - don't come out looking too good in their response to continuing the games after the massacre.
Author Large does a good job at fitting the "terror" parts of the Munich games together, but doesn't fail at looking at the triumphs of many of the athletes who competed there. It's a good, all-round telling of those games and their hopes for a coming-together of athletes that ended in tragedy.
This was a facinating read. Like most people, all I really knew about the 1972 Olympic Games was the terrorist attack, yet this book explored every aspect of the games, from the decision to bid for the games to their aftermath. A bit dry in places but well worth your time if, like me, the stories of the games can be as interesting as the sporting events themselves.