The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany

The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany

The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany

The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany

Synopsis

The 1972 Munich Olympics--remembered almost exclusively for the devastating terrorist attack on the Israeli team--were intended to showcase the New Germany and replace lingering memories of the Third Reich. That hope was all but obliterated in the early hours of September 5, when gun-wielding Palestinians murdered 11 members of the Israeli team. In the first cultural and political history of the Munich Olympics, Kay Schiller and Christopher Young set these Games into both the context of 1972 and the history of the modern Olympiad. Delving into newly available documents, Schiller and Young chronicle the impact of the Munich Games on West German society.

Excerpt

Telcon: 12:05–9/2/72

Mr. Kissinger

The President

K: Mr. President.

P: Oh, Henry, I was thinking—you know Fischer will be coming in having won that
chess thing sometime. And I want you to see if we can get the other fella to come
to [sic].

K Spassky.

P: Yes, you know what I mean.

K: Right.

P: They have had a long match, etc.

K: No, we better not, Mr. President, because Spassky is thinking of defecting and we
better stay away.

P: Oh, is he?

K: Yes.

P: OK. Thanks.

As Richard Nixon soon learned in this brief exchange with Henry Kissinger on 2 September 1972—one day after Bobby Fischer’s victory over Boris Spassky in the most famous match in chess history, and one week into the Games of the twentieth Olympiad in Munich—the relationship between sport and politics is not always easy. At best—as the president might have deduced had he refected for a moment on the irony of Fischer’s one-man assault on the Soviet system at the height of East-West détente—it can be slippery. At worst, as the world would be forced to conclude just days later, it can prove tragic. By 6 September, the . . .

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