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Taken hostage at the 1972 Games | The day Munich stopped living

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On September 5 and 6, 1972, 11 members of the Israeli delegation were taken hostage and then murdered by members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the Munich Olympics. On the spot, the reporter from The print Guy Pinard covered the events. He remembers her, still moved.

Posted at 5:00

André Duchesne

André Duchesne
The print

“A very sad day. A day that should have gone smoothly like all the others since the start of the Olympic Games. […] But a commando of Palestinian terrorists had decided otherwise. Suddenly Monaco stopped living. “

So wrote Guy Pinard, special correspondent of The print in the September 6, 1972 issue, a few hours after the violent death of 11 members (athletes, coaches, referees) of the Israeli delegation at the Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. One of the darkest moments in the history of the Olympic movement since the creation of the modern Games, in Athens in 1896.

Division Head in the Sport Section of The printGuy Pinard, then 34, was covering his second Olympic Games.


PHOTO PIERRE MCCANN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Guy Pinard in 1968 in the editorial office of La Presse

The opening ceremony took place on August 26th. Canadian representatives experienced this moment knowing that Montreal would be the next city to host the Summer Games.

However, on the night of September 5th, everything changed.

At 4:30 am on Tuesday, September 5, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian Black September commandos broke into building 31 of the Olympic Village and took members of the Israeli delegation hostage.

Two Israelis are shot on the spot. Nine others are captured. Terrorists demand the release of 232 Palestinian prisoners in Israel in exchange for hostages.

The crisis will last 20 hours. It ends up in blood on 6 September at 00:30 on the asphalt of the Fürstenfeldbruck military air base, where the terrorists, still hostage, try to take a plane to Cairo.

German authorities attempt to trap terrorists with hastily recruited snipers. The firefight turns into a massacre. Terrorists kill all hostages. Five of the eight Palestinians are killed as well as a German policeman.


AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

Six of the eleven Israeli victims: Moshe Weinberg, Kehat Shorr, Yaakov Springer, Yosef Gottfreund, Eliezer Halfin and Amitzur Shapira

The Olympics are suspended for one day. They resume in a heavy climate until the closing ceremony on Monday 11 September.

Tension in the air

Guy Pinard recalls this “tension in the air” that reigned on the Olympic site in the first hours following the taking of the hostages.

“There was this tension that we noticed and wondered what was going on,” he recalls. We had very little information from the Olympic Committee. Everyone had a piece of information on their side. It was confusing as news. ”


AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

A man observes the Olympic Village through binoculars as the hostage crisis unfolds.

Later, it was on his way back to his room to watch the events on television that Mr. Pinard witnessed all the horror of the massacre.

“At the beginning we talked about explosions [à l’aéroport], but said the athletes were saved. People were happy, but skeptical, “she says.

And then we found out what really happened. It was really a shock. I still talk about it today with goosebumps. It’s the worst event I’ve ever seen in my life, even though I’ve only experienced it on television.

Guy Pinard, retired journalist from The print

Mr. Pinard, who had followed the Mexico Olympics, had also experienced the collective trauma that occurred in the wake of the Tlatelolco massacre. Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Games, Mexican police and army opened fire on students demonstrating in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City. Result: 200 to 300 deaths.

“Throughout the period of the 1968 Games, we always had this image of the military around stadiums, the Olympic village, etc.,” recalls Mr. Pinard. Thus, in 1972, the Germans had chosen to present a less aggressive “invisible security”. It was easier to enter the village. ”

In Monaco, when competitions resume, the heart is no longer a party or a show. “It wasn’t the same anymore,” Pinard recalls. A good majority of journalists wanted the Games to stop. ”

We were all in shock. Go to a sports party and get caught in the gears of a massacre. It was hard. Many winners cried during the presentation of the medals. Couldn’t wait to go back.

Guy Pinard, retired journalist from The print

Agreement with families

Fifty years after the events, the families of the 11 Israeli victims are still injured. So much so that just a few days ago they refused to participate in a ceremony to be held on September 5 in Munich to commemorate the missing.


PHOTO WOLFGANG RATTAY, REUTERS ARCHIVES

On August 18, 2022, a stone artist retouched the monument dedicated to the victims of the Munich attacks.

These families believed that the West German authorities of the time were partly responsible for the turn of events. They demanded a public apology, the opening of the case files and financial compensation.

An agreement was finally reached on Wednesday. It provides for the payment of € 28 million in compensation. This sum is in addition to the approximately 4.5 million euros paid in 2002.


AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

Photo taken on 7 September 1972 on the asphalt of the airport where the hostage situation had a tragic outcome. During the shooting, one of the terrorists fired a barrage of machine guns at several Israeli hostages massed aboard a helicopter before detonating it with a grenade.

Canadian athletes involved in spite of themselves

In the movie Monk by Steven Spielberg dedicated to the attacks of the 1972 Games and the Israeli response, we see some Western athletes who, believing they are dealing with other competitors, help the terrorists to cross the fence of the Olympic village in the middle of the night. For a long time we have believed in these American athletes. They were Canadian.

The case was revealed in April 2012 by the newspaper Toronto star. Two of the Canadian athletes involved, Robert Thompson and David Hart, members of the country’s Maple Leaf water polo team, testified to this story.

Together with other Canadian athletes, the two friends, aged 24 and 20 and residents of Hamilton, were returning to the Olympic Village. Minutes earlier, they had left the CBC broadcast center where they had seen the Canadian hockey team win 4-1 in the second game of the Century Series against the USSR.

When they saw other young people in overalls and sports bags trying to cross the three-meter fence that surrounded the village, they helped them without asking any more questions. “We thought they were other athletes,” Thompson told Toronto star.

However, the tracksuits were disguises and the sports bags were filled with machine guns, grenades and balaclavas.


AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

A group of negotiators, including West German Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (second from left), negotiate with a terrorist during the hostage crisis.

He was the last terrorist to survive that attack who, in 1999, said in an interview that the group had been helped by American athletes. This is what we believed in until 2012.

Reduced security

The 1972 Munich Games were the first to be held in Germany after those in Berlin in 1936. Games that marked memory because the Nazis were in power.

In the minds of the organizers in 1972, it was essential to make a good impression, to show the image of a peaceful host country, avoiding any muscular manifestation.

With the result that the budget dedicated to the safety of what have been dubbed the “Happy Games” was reduced to a minimum. According to the Munich massacre article on britannica.com, the budget was around $ 2 million.


AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

A Palestinian terrorist shows up on the balcony during the hostage-taking.

Following the tragic events, security was significantly enhanced for the Montreal Olympics.

“We never knew the real costs, but no doubt the money was spent on the secret services,” says Guy Pinard, a journalist for The print retired who covered the Games in Mexico, Monaco and Montreal. A man tried to cross the fence of the Montreal Olympic Village and was captured. We had learned. ”


BANK IMAGE

The Montreal-Matin article of August 7, 1976 in which the CUM police chief, René Daigneault, evokes “boring games” for the police force.

In a press conference held on August 6, 1976, five days after the closing ceremony of the Montreal Games, the director of the Montreal police, René Daigneault, declared that the most important problem experienced by the members of his unit during the fortnight of the I games “were boring”.

Because the coordination between the various police forces (Communauté urbaine de Montréal, Sûreté du Québec and Royal Canadian Mounted Police) with the Canadian army, also deployed, was “positive” and “went well”, he said in this occasion.

Better. The crime rate on CUM territory dropped by 20% during the Montreal Games.

With Radio France Internationale e The group

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