From the Stars and Stripes archives

'Games must go on,' says Brundage

Mourners embrace before the memorial service at Olympic Stadium in Munich on September 6, 1972.


By JACK ELLIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 7, 1972

MUNICH — An indomitable Avery Brundage told a shocked and horrified world here Wednesday that the Olympic ideals must go on despite politics, commercialism and terror.

Brundage's remarks, made in emotion-racked tones and with a determination belying his 84 years, echoed across the sun-drenched Olympic Stadium which had been the scene of pomp and gaiety at opening ceremonies just 12 days ago.

Wednesday, the same stadium was filled with more than 80,000 somber dignitaries, officials, athletes and fans, gathered to honor the 11 dead Israelis who were the victims of an Arab terrorist attack.

Until Brundage spoke, there had been grave doubt in this Bavarian city that the Games could be completed.

But the outgoing president of the International Olympic Committee quickly made it clear that the Games would continue out of respect to the murdered Israelis after a day of mourning Wednesday.

Almost immediately after the memorial service, officials promptly rearranged the schedule for a resumption of competition Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesman for the sports committee said the Games were to resume at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday from the point where they were suspended at that time Tuesday afternoon while Arab guerrillas were holding Israeli team members hostage.

In effect, that meant each day's schedule was to be pushed back 24 hours and the closing ceremony will be held Monday instead of Sunday.

Among the speakers at the memorial service was West German President Gustav Heinemann, who opened the Olympic Games last August 28 on a note of optimism.

Wednesday, however, the German president's speech was in a vastly different vein. He deplored the atrocity which took place in his nation and sent his condolences to members of the Israeli delegation. He also called for the Games to continue.

Willi Daume, president of the Olympic organizing committee, was the first speaker at the rostrum as the memorial service, carried worldwide by television and radio.

(UPI writer Robert Musel reported that Daume had indicated to friends he was in favor of calling off the Olympics. Daume, president of the organizing committee, was not present when the nine-man executive board voted before the memorial service to continue the Games.)

He was followed by the chief o f Israel's Olympic team, Shmuel Lalkin.

Lalkin brought a huge ovation from the crowd when he stated that despite the tragedy, Israel hoped the Olympic Games would continue. He called for a continuation of competition "in the spirit of world sportsmanship."

Lalkin said, "with deep shock, we sorrow over the barbarous attack by terrorists against our sportsmen who were murdered."

Then he read the names of those Israelis killed, last names first, and the entire 80,000 people stood as he intoned them.

An unscheduled speaker at the memorial was Israeli ambassador to Germany, Eliashiv Ben Horin, who addressed the crowd after Lalkin's remarks.

Then came Heinemann and he was followed by Brundage, who stood stiffly erect and spoke out almost in defiance at those who would destroy his cherished Olympic ideals.

"Every civilized person recoiled in horror at the barbarous criminal intrusion of terrorists into the peaceful Olympic precincts," Brundage said. "We mourn our Israeli friends, victims of this brutal assault.

"Sadly, the greater and more important the Olympic Games become, the more they are open to commercial, political and now criminal pressure," Brundage continued. "The games of the 20th Olympiad have been subjected to two savage attacks. We lost the Rhodesian battle against naked political blackmail.

"We have only the strength of a great ideal. I am sure the public will agree that we cannot allow a handful of terrorists to destroy this nucleus of international cooperation and goodwill we have in the Olympic movement."

Then came the announcement which at first brought murmurs and then thunderous applause from the assemblage.

"The Genes must go on and we must continue our efforts to keep them clear, pure and honest and try to extend sportsmanship of the athletic field to other areas.

"We declare today a day of mourning and will continue all the events one day later than scheduled."

The memorial service for the Israeli officials and athletes began shortly after 10 a.m. There was no wind and the day began hot and muggy. Flags of all nations, including those of Arab nations, hung limply at half-mast.

Chairs had been placed on the playing field for members of the various Olympic teams, who were brought to the service in special buses. The Israeli team, wearing maroon jackets and white Yarmulkes (skull caps), took its place in the center.

The host West German team, largest group in attendance, surrounded the other competitors on three sides. The American team, many of them in opening day ceremony uniforms, was seated in the front rows of a section near the main entrance.

President Heinemann, followed by Brundage, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Foreign Minister Walter Scheel, filed solemnly into the special box draped in black crepe.

By 10 a.m., all athletes were in place and thousands of spectators had filed into the stadium. There were about 85,000 in the stadium.

The memorial began with the Munich Philharmonic playing the funeral movement of Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony. Armed guards were posted at intervals around the rim of the stadium as above the Olympic torch blazed brightly in the morning haze.

One of the last uniformed g r o u p s to move into the stadium and take its place alongside the athletic teams was an unarmed honor guard in dress blue uniforms of the Munich police, which handled the abortive rescue attempt of the Israeli hostages.

Some of the athletes were in civilian dress and difficult to identify by nation. Some Africans were in their soccer uniforms, Australians wore their team garb, Spaniards were obvious in red uniforms.

The unscheduled speaker, Horin, wearing a Yarmulke, made one of the most passion-packed addresses of the day.

Horin said the Israeli team came to Munich to compete in the spirit of Olympic peace.

"We call on all the peoples of the world to cooperate in halting this kind of criminal act," he said. "We express our deep sorrow to the families of those who were murdered."

Brundage faced perhaps his saddest moment in a long and stormy Olympic career. As Brundage spoke, five black African athletes left the massed group of athletes in the stadium infield and walked out.

It was not immediately known if it was a deliberate protest, but could have been related to Brundage's statement on the Rhodesian question.

Brundage's statement that "the games must go on" took much of the heavy gloom away which has permeated Munich since early Tuesday. Many in the crowd began to leave before the orchestra played its closing number, Beethoven's "Egmont Overture."

As the Munich Philharmonic continued to play, competitors at the 20th Olympic games filed out of the stadium to resume their tragically interrupted training programs.

On1y minutes after the stadium was empty, attendants began watering the infield grass in preparation for the Games' resumption.

(In later developments, the Associated Press reported from Jerusalem Wednesday that Israel had asked the United States to pull out of the Olympics following the Arab attack. AP accredited the story to qualified sources.

(Three hours after the proposal was presented to the U.S. Embassy, no reply had come from Washington, the sources said. Israel has already quit the Games, and it was rumored that West Germany might also be asked to suspend competition.

(Meanwhile, in Munich, AP reported at least four Dutch and more than a dozen Norwegian athletes had decided not to participate further.

(Team officials from the Netherlands reported that Wilma van Gool, Bram Wassenaar, Jos Hermens and Barend Kops had withdrawn.

(On the Norwegian team, AP reported that wrestler Harald Barlie, fencer Morten von Kogh and the handball team will stay out of competition.)

In a tribute to the dead Israelis later in the day, posthumous gold medals were awarded by the International Amateur Wrestling Federation to four members of the Israeli team.

The awards were announced at the resumption of wrestling competition. Honored were Israeli coach Moshe Weinberg, team captain Yosef Gotfreund and wrestlers Mark Slavin and Eliezer Halfin.

Shmuel Lalkin, chief of the Israeli team at the 1972 Olympics, speaks at the memorial service.