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The 1972 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Munichmarker, in what was then West Germanymarker, from August 26 to September 11, 1972.

The 1972 Summer Olympics were the second Summer Olympics to be held in Germany, after the 1936 Games in Berlin. The Munich Olympics were intended to present a new, democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by its official motto, "the Happy Games." The emblem of the Games was a blue solar logo (the "Bright Sun"). The Olympic mascot, the dachshund "Waldi", was the first officially named Olympic mascot. The Games also saw the introduction of the now-universal sports pictograms designed by Otl Aicher. Soon, however, the killings of 11 Israelimarker athletes by Palestinian terrorists in an event known as the Munich massacremarker took center stage.

The Olympic Park (Olympiapark) is based on Frei Otto's plans and after the Games became a Munich landmark. The competition sites, designed by architect Günther Behnisch, included the Olympic swimming hall, the Olympics Hall (Olympiahalle, a multipurpose facility) and the Olympic Stadiummarker (Olympiastadion), and an Olympic village very close to the park. The design of the stadium was considered revolutionary, with sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilized by metal ropes, used on such a large scale for the first time.


Munich won its Olympic bid on April 26, 1966, at the 64th IOC Session at Rome, Italy, over bids presented by Detroitmarker, Madridmarker and Montrealmarker.

Below are the vote results, compliments of the International Olympic Committee Vote History web page.

1972 Summer Olympics Bidding Results
City NOC Name Round 1 Round 2
Munichmarker 29 31
Madridmarker 16 16
Montrealmarker, Quebecmarker 6 13
Detroit, Michiganmarker 6 -

Munich massacre

The Games were largely overshadowed by what has come to be known as the Munich massacre. On September 5 a group of eight Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Black September organization broke into the Olympic Village and took eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and officials hostage in their apartments. Two of the hostages who resisted were killed in the first moments of the break-in; the subsequent standoff in the Olympic Village lasted for almost 18 hours.

Late in the evening of September 5, the terrorists and their hostages were transferred by helicopter to the military airport of Fürstenfeldbruckmarker, ostensibly to board a plane bound for an undetermined Arab country. The German authorities planned to ambush them there, but under-estimated the number of terrorists and were thus undermanned. During a botched rescue attempt, all of the Israeli hostages were killed. Four of them were shot, then incinerated when a Palestinian detonated a grenade inside the helicopter in which the hostages were sitting. The five remaining hostages were then machine-gunned by another terrorist.

All but three of the Palestinians were killed as well. Although arrested and imprisoned pending trial, the three PLO survivors were released by the West German government on October 29, 1972 in exchange for a hijacked Lufthansamarker jet; some German officials have publicly suggested that this hijacking was concocted by the Bonn government and the PLO in order to prevent more terrorist activity in West Germany. Two of those three were supposedly hunted down and assassinated later by the Mossad. Jamal Al-Gashey is believed to be the sole survivor, and is still living today in hiding in an unspecified Arab country. The Olympic events were briefly suspended but Avery Brundage, the International Olympic Committeemarker president, decided that "the Games must go on." Competition resumed a day later.

The attack prompted heightened security at future Olympics beginning with the 1976 Winter Olympics.

The massacre led the German federal government to realize the inadequacy of its post-World War II pacifist approach to combating terrorism, and to the creation of the elite counter-terrorist unit GSG 9. It also led Israel to launch an aggressive counterterrorism campaign known as Operation Wrath of God. The events of the Munich massacre were chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary, One Day in September. An account of the aftermath is dramatized in Steven Spielberg's 2005 film Munich.


  • Mark Spitz, a swimmer from the United States, set a world record when he won seven gold medals (while on the way to setting a new world record for each of his seven gold medals) in a single Olympics, bringing his lifetime total to nine (he had won two golds in Mexico City's Games four years earlier). Being Jewish, Spitz was forced to leave Munich before the closing ceremonies for his own protection, after fears arose that he would be an additional target of those responsible for the Munich massacremarker. Spitz's record stood until 2008, when it was beaten by Michael Phelps who won 8 gold medals in the pool.
  • Olga Korbut, a tiny Soviet gymnast, became a media star after winning a gold medal in the team competition event, failing to win in the individual all-around after a fall (she was beaten by Lyudmilla Turischeva), and finally winning two gold medals in the Balance Beam and the floor exercise events.
  • In the final of the men's basketball, the United States lost to the USSR, in what USA Basketball calls "the most controversial game in international basketball history". Doug Collins made two free throws with three seconds left to give the USA a 50–49 lead, despite the horn going off in the middle of his second attempt. The Soviets failed to score on the ensuing possession, but the clock was stopped at 0:01 after one official heard the earlier horn and the Soviets were frantically urging time-out. The clock had to be reset to three seconds but it was showing 0:50 when play began again. Again, the Soviets failed to score, time apparently expired, and the United States began celebrating. However, after the vehement protests of FIBA secretary general R. William Jones, the referees added three seconds back to the clock due to error in re-starting the clock. Although Jones had no authority during an Olympic game, he overruled the officials' decision. The Soviets scored in the final seconds, for a final margin of 51–50. A U.S. protest, filed after the match, was denied by FIBA, which voted 3–2 against the protest along Cold War lines. The U.S. team voted unanimously to refuse the silver medal, and to this day still has not accepted them. They remain in a vault in Lausanne, Switzerlandmarker. U.S. team captain Kenneth Davis even has written in his will that his wife and children can never accept the silver medal. The end of the USA-USSR gold medal game remains one of the most controversial events in Olympic history and has been the subject of numerous film and television specials, including HBO's documentary 0:03 Seconds from Gold.
  • Lasse Virén of Finland won the 5,000 and 10,000 m (the latter after a fall), a feat he repeated in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
  • Valeri Borzov of the USSR won both the 100 m and 200 m in track and field. The top two US sprinters and medal favorites in the 100 m, Rey Robinson and Eddie Hart missed the final after being given the wrong starting time.
  • Also in track and field, two black American 400 m runners, Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett, acted casually on the medal stand, twirling their medals (gold and silver, respectively) and joking with one another as "The Star-Spangled Banner" was being played during the award ceremony. They were banned from the Olympics for life, as Tommie Smith and John Carlos had been in the 1968 Summer Olympics.
  • Dave Wottle won the men's 800 m, after being last for the first 600 m, at which point he started to pass runner after runner up the final straightaway, finally grabbing the lead in the final metres to win by just 0.03 seconds ahead of the favorite, the Soviet Yevgeny Arzhanov. At the victory ceremony, Wottle forgot to remove his golf cap. This was interpreted by some as a form of protest, but Wottle later apologized.
  • Australian swimmer Shane Gould won three gold medals, a silver, and a bronze medal at the age of 15.
  • Handball (last held in 1936) and Archery (last held in 1920) returned as Olympic sports after a long absence.
  • Slalom canoeing was held for the first time at the Olympics.
  • Dan Gable won the gold medal in wrestling without having a single point scored against him.
  • Wim Ruska became the first judoka to win two gold medals.
  • For the first time, the Olympic Oath was taken by a representative of the referees.
  • American Frank Shorter, who was born in Munich, became the first from his country in 64 years to win the Olympic marathon. As Shorter was nearing the stadium, German student Norbert Sudhaus, wearing a track uniform, joined the race for the last quarter-mile as a gag. He entered the stadium and ran part way around the track. Thinking he was the winner, the crowd began cheering him. Officials then realized the hoax and ushered the jokester off the course. Arriving seconds later, Shorter was understandably perplexed to see someone ahead of him and to hear the boos and catcalls meant for Sudhaus. This was the third time in Olympic history that an American had won the marathon—and in none of those three instances did the winner enter the stadium first.
  • On September 11 a small plane was stolen in Stuttgartmarker and authorities received information that Arab terrorists were planning to drop a bomb on the final ceremonies. IOC officials and Chancellor Willy Brandt, who were attending the ceremonies, were informed. Defense minister Georg Leber had two fighter planes follow the stolen plane, with the intent of shooting it down should it approach Munich. Radar contact to the plane was lost. A short while later, radar contact to an unknown plane was established, but it turned out to be a civilian passenger aircraft. The stolen plane was never found.
  • Badminton and water skiing were the demonstration sports.


Olympiasee in Olympiapark, Munich
  • Munich Olympic Park (Olympiaparkmarker)
    • Olympic Stadiummarker (Olympiastadion) – opening/closing ceremonies, athletics, football/soccer, modern pentathlon, memorial service for Israeli athletes
    • Boxing Hall (Boxhalle) – boxing, judo
    • Cycling Stadium (Radstadion) – cycling
    • Olympic Sports Hallmarker (Sporthalle) – gymnastics, handball
    • Hockey Facility (Hockeyanlage) – hockey
    • Swimming Hallmarker (Schwimmhalle) – swimming, diving, water polo
    • Volleyball Hall (Volleyballhalle) – volleyball
    • Olympic Villagemarker (Olympisches Dorf)

  • Venues in Greater Munich
    • Regatta Course (Regattastrecke), Oberschleißheimmarker – rowing and canoing events
    • Basketball Hallmarker (Basketballhalle), Siegenburger Straße – basketball, judo
    • Fairgrounds, Fencing Hall 1 (Messegelände, Fechthalle 1) – fencing
    • Fairgrounds, Fencing Hall 2 (Messegelände, Fechthalle 1) – fencing
    • Fairgrounds, Weightlifting Hall (Messegelände, Gewichtheberhalle) – weightlifting
    • Fairgrounds, Judo and Wrestling Hall (Messegelände, Judo- und Ringerhalle) – judo, wrestling
    • Dante Swimming Pool (Dantebad) – water polo
    • Shooting Facility (Schießanlage), Hochbrück – shooting
    • Archery Facility (Bogenschießanlage), Englischer Gartenmarker – archery
    • Riding Facility, Riem – equestrian events
    • Dressage Facility Nymphenburgmarker – equestrian events

  • Other venues
    • Olympic Yachting Center, Kiel-Schilkseemarker – water skiing, yachting
    • Nürnbergmarker – football/soccer preliminaries
    • Regensburgmarker – football/soccer preliminaries
    • Passaumarker – football/soccer preliminaries
    • Ingolstadtmarker – football/soccer preliminaries
    • Augsburgmarker – canoeing, football/soccer preliminaries, handball preliminaries
    • Ulmmarker – handball preliminaries
    • Göppingenmarker – handball preliminaries
    • Böblingenmarker – handball preliminaries

Medals awarded

See the medal winners, ordered by sport:

Demonstration sports

Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at these Games (The host country is highlighted).

1 50 27 22 99
2 33 31 30 94
3 20 23 23 66
4 13 11 16 40
5 13 8 8 29
6 8 7 2 17
7 7 5 9 21
8 6 13 16 35
9 6 10 5 21
10 5 3 10 18

Participating nations

Articles about Munich Summer Olympics by nation:
  • (Host nation)

See also


  1. ESPN Classic - Classic 1972 USA vs. USSR Basketball game

External links

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