History of the Olympics

1972 - Munich, West Germany

Olympic Stadium
Empty seats at the Olympic Park in Munich.

Ander Aguirre photography/Getty Images

The 1972 Olympic Games will probably be best remembered for the murder of eleven Israeli Olympians. On September 5, a day before the Games were to begin, eight Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympic Village and seized eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team. Two of the hostages were able to wound two of their captors before they were killed. The terrorists requested the release of 234 Palestinians that were being held in Israel. During a failed attempt at rescue, all of the remaining hostages and five of the terrorists were killed, and three terrorists were wounded.

The IOC decided that the Games should go on. The following day there was a memorial service for the victims and the Olympic flags were flown at half staff. The opening of the Olympics was postponed one day. The decision of the IOC to continue the Games after such a horrific event was controversial.

The Games Went On

More controversies were to affect these Games. During the Olympic ​Games a dispute arose during the basketball game between the Soviet Union and the United States. With one second left on the clock, and the score in favor of the Americans at 50-49, the horn sounded. The Soviet coach had called a time-out. The clock was reset to three seconds and played out. The Soviets still hadn't scored and for some reason, the clock was again set back to three seconds. This time, Soviet player Alexander Belov made a basket and the game ended at 50-51 in the Soviet's favor. Though the timekeeper and one of the referees stated that the additional three seconds was completely illegal, the Soviets were allowed to keep the gold.

In an amazing feat, Mark Spitz (United States) dominated the swimming events and won seven gold medals.

More than 7,000 athletes participated, representing 122 countries.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the Olympics." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/1972-olympics-in-munich-1779608. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2023, April 5). History of the Olympics. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1972-olympics-in-munich-1779608 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the Olympics." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1972-olympics-in-munich-1779608 (accessed June 8, 2023).