TERRORISM: Horror and Death at the Olympics

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On a much lower level, the benign image of the Olympic Games (see SPORT) was also bruised by the horror and bloodshed amid splendid surroundings. The morning after the murders, an audience of 80,000 filed into the Olympic Stadium for a hastily arranged memorial service. The surviving members of the Israeli team, heavily guarded, sat with the other athletes in the center of the field. The stand was draped in black, and for the first time in Olympic history the flags of 122 competing nations and the Olympic flag flew at half-staff. Munich's Philharmonic orchestra played the sad strains of the funeral movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Declared West Germany's President Gustav Heinemann: "We stand helpless before a truly despicable act."

Should the Games continue? Crusty Avery Brundage, the 84-year-old retiring president of the International Olympic Committee, declared that "the Games must go on"—and the crowd in the stadium cheered. One obvious consideration was to deny the Arab terrorists the satisfaction of having halted the Olympics. But the decision was a troubling one, and the Israeli government justifiably protested that the Games should be halted while Israel mourned its Olympic dead. Many felt that the tragedy was of such magnitude that the remaining Games should be called off. Unwilling to continue, some Dutch and Norwegian team members quietly packed up and went home.

Relaxed Security. Until last week, the XX Olympiad had been a huge and happy success. Never before had so many records been toppled or so many political quarrels forgotten. West Germans even made a point of cheering whenever East Germans won. In that atmosphere, security was progressively relaxed. Initially, the West Germans planned to restrict entry into the Olympic Village, which was home to 12,000 athletes. But when reporters complained—and accused the security men of Gestapo tactics—officials all but abandoned efforts to limit press entry to the village. Forgotten, too, was earlier concern over security for the Israeli team. As the Israelis told it last week, they had asked two months ago for special protection at the Games, and had been promised that they would be safeguarded. The West Germans said that they had offered the Israelis special protection, and been turned down.

Incredibly, neither side apparently had second thoughts, even when rumors spread that Arabs intended to cause trouble at the Games. In addition, U.S. businesses were told by the State Department to be on the lookout for Arab terrorist bombs.

The most extreme of all Arab terrorist groups, the Black September group (see story, page 33), already had some members in Germany, among the Palestinians attending universities there. But the planning and training for last week's attack, according to Israeli intelligence, was carried out in Syria. Israel also accused Syria of helping the fedayeen get German work permits in order to reconnoiter and perhaps even using embassy radio facilities to speed situation reports back to commando headquarters in the Middle East. The week before the Olympics started, several members of Black September set out for Munich, traveling separately and by various means of transport. They brought an arsenal of deadly Russian-built Kalashnikov submachine guns, pistols and hand grenades.

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