1972 Summer Olympics

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Games of the XX Olympiad
1972 Summer Olympics logo.svg
Emblem of the 1972 Summer Olympics
Host city Munich, West Germany
MottoThe Cheerful Games
(German: Heitere Spiele)
Athletes7,134 (6,075 men, 1,059 women)
Events195 in 21 sports (28 disciplines)
Opening26 August 1972
Closing11 September 1972
Opened by
Günther Zahn [1]
Stadium Olympiastadion

The 1972 Summer Olympics (German : Olympische Sommerspiele 1972), officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad (German : Spiele der XX. Olympiade) and commonly known as Munich 1972 (German : München 1972), was an international multi-sport event held in Munich, West Germany, from 26 August to 11 September 1972.


The event was overshadowed by the Munich massacre in the second week, in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer at Olympic village were killed by Palestinian Black September members. The motivation for the attack was the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The 1972 Summer Olympics were the second Summer Olympics to be held in Germany, after the 1936 Games in Berlin, which had taken place under the Nazi regime, and the most recent Olympics to be held in the country. The West German Government had been eager to have the Munich Olympics present a democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by the Games' official motto, "Die Heiteren Spiele", [2] or "the cheerful Games". [3] The logo of the Games was a blue solar logo (the "Bright Sun") by Otl Aicher, the designer and director of the visual conception commission. [4] The hostesses wore sky-blue dirndls as a promotion of Bavarian cultural heritage. [5] The Olympic mascot, the dachshund "Waldi", was the first officially named Olympic mascot. The Olympic Fanfare was composed by Herbert Rehbein. [6] The Soviet Union won the most gold and overall medals.

The Olympic Park ( Olympiapark ) is based on Frei Otto's plans and became a Munich landmark after the Games. The competition sites, designed by architect Günther Behnisch, included the Olympic swimming hall, the Olympics Hall (Olympiahalle, a multipurpose facility) and the Olympic Stadium (Olympiastadion), and an Olympic village very close to the park. The design of these stadia was considered revolutionary, with sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilized by metal ropes, used on such a large scale for the first time. [7]

Host city selection

1972 Summer Olympics bidding results [8]
CityCountryRound 1Round 2
Munich Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany 2931
Madrid Flag of Spain (1945-1977).svg Spain 1616
Montréal Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 613
Detroit Flag of the United States (Pantone).svg  United States 6

Munich won its Olympic bid on 26 April 1966, at the 64th IOC Session in Rome, Italy, over bids presented by Detroit, Madrid, and Montréal. Montréal would eventually host the following Olympic games in 1976. [9]

Munich massacre

The Games were largely overshadowed by what has come to be known as the "Munich massacre". Just before dawn on 5 September, a group of eight members of the Palestinian Black September terrorist 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 5 September that same day, the terrorists and their nine remaining hostages were transferred by helicopter to the military airport of Fürstenfeldbruck, ostensibly to board a plane bound for an undetermined Arab country. The German authorities planned to ambush them there, but underestimated the numbers of their opposition and were thus undermanned. During a botched rescue attempt, all of the Israeli hostages were killed. Four of them were shot, then incinerated when one of the terrorists detonated a grenade inside the helicopter in which the hostages were sitting. The 5 remaining hostages were then shot and killed with a machine gun.

"Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms, yesterday morning. Nine were killed at the airport, tonight. They're all gone."

—After a series of conflicting reports and rumours, Jim McKay of ABC brought the news at 3:24 a.m. local time. [10]

All but three of the terrorists were killed as well. Although arrested and imprisoned pending trial, they were released by the West German government on 29 October 1972, in exchange for the hijacked Lufthansa Flight 615. Two of those three were supposedly hunted down and assassinated later by the Mossad. [11] Jamal Al-Gashey, who is believed to be the sole survivor, is still living today in hiding in an unspecified African country with his wife and two children. The Olympic events were suspended several hours after the initial attack for the first time in the modern Olympic Games history, but once the incident was concluded, Avery Brundage, the International Olympic Committee president, declared that "the Games must go on". A memorial ceremony was then held in the Olympic stadium, and the competitions resumed after a stoppage of 34 hours. Due to the suspension, the Games that were originally to close on 10 September were rescheduled to 11 September. [12] The attack prompted heightened security at subsequent Olympics beginning with the 1976 Winter Olympics. Security at Olympics was heightened further beginning with the 2002 Winter Olympics, as they were the first to take place after the 2001 September 11 attacks.[ relevant? ]

The massacre led the German federal government to re-examine its anti-terrorism policies, which at the time were dominated by a pacifist approach imposed after World War II. This led to the creation of the elite counter-terrorist unit GSG 9, similar to the British SAS. It also led Israel to launch a campaign known as Operation Wrath of God, in which those suspected of involvement were systematically tracked down and assassinated.

The events of the Munich massacre were chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary, One Day in September . [13] An account of the aftermath is also dramatized in three films: the 1976 made-for-TV movie 21 Hours at Munich , the 1986 made-for-TV movie Sword of Gideon [14] and Steven Spielberg's 2005 film Munich . [15] In her film 1972, Artist Sarah Morris interviews Georg Sieber, a former police psychiatrist who advised the Olympics' security team, about the events and aftermath of Black September. [16]


Otl Aicher's signage pictograms designed for the Munich Olympic Games Olympic games 1972 pictogramms olympic station 0877 a.jpg
Otl Aicher's signage pictograms designed for the Munich Olympic Games
Procession of athletes in the Olympic Stadium- 1972 Summer Olympics, Munich, Germany Olimpiai Stadion, az olimpia megnyitounnepsege. Fortepan 73767.jpg
Procession of athletes in the Olympic Stadium- 1972 Summer Olympics, Munich, Germany
Munich Olympics commemorative 10-mark coin, 1972 1972olympiadCOIN.jpg
Munich Olympics commemorative 10-mark coin, 1972


Aerial view of the Olympiapark. Munich - Olympiapark 3.jpg
Aerial view of the Olympiapark.


The Oxford Olympics Study established the outturn cost of the Munich 1972 Summer Olympics at US$1.0 billion in 2015-dollars. [24] This includes sports-related costs only, that is, (i) operational costs incurred by the organizing committee for the purpose of staging the Games, e.g., expenditures for technology, transportation, workforce, administration, security, catering, ceremonies, and medical services, and (ii) direct capital costs incurred by the host city and country or private investors to build, e.g., the competition venues, the Olympic village, international broadcast center, and media and press center, which are required to host the Games. Indirect capital costs are not included, such as for road, rail, or airport infrastructure, or for hotel upgrades or other business investment incurred in preparation for the Games but not directly related to staging the Games. The cost for Munich 1972 compares with costs of US$4.6 billion for Rio 2016, US$15 billion for London 2012 (the most costly Summer Olympics to date) and US$51 billion for Sochi 2014 — the most expensive Olympic Games in history. [25] Average cost for Summer Games since 1960 is US$5.2 billion.


The 1972 Summer Olympic programme featured 195 events in the following 21 sports:

Demonstration sports

Participating National Olympic Committees

Participants 1972 Summer Olympic games countries.png
Number of competitors per nation. 1972 Summer olympics team numbers.gif
Number of competitors per nation.

Eleven nations made their first Olympic appearance in Munich: Albania, Dahomey (now Benin), Gabon, North Korea, Lesotho, Malawi, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Swaziland, Togo, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).

Rhodesia's invitation to take part in the 1972 Summer Games was withdrawn by the International Olympic Committee four days before the opening ceremony, in response to African countries' (such as Ethiopia and Kenya) protests against the Rhodesian government. (Rhodesia did, however, compete in the 1972 Summer Paralympics, held a little earlier in Heidelberg.) [26] [27] The People's Republic of China last competed at the 1952 Summer Games but had since withdrawn from the IOC due to a dispute with the Republic of China over the right to represent China. [28]

Participating National Olympic Committees

Number of athletes by National Olympic Committees


All times are in Central European Time (UTC+1)

OCOpening ceremonyEvent competitions1Gold medal eventsCCClosing ceremonySuspended event competitionsMSMemorial service

August/September 1972AugustSeptemberEvents
Olympic Rings Icon.svg CeremoniesOCMSCC
Diving pictogram.svg Diving 111134
Swimming pictogram.svg Swimming 34433444
Water polo pictogram.svg Water polo 1
Archery pictogram.svg Archery 22
Athletics pictogram.svg Athletics 22563723838
Basketball pictogram.svg Basketball 11
Boxing pictogram.svg Boxing 1111
Canoeing Canoeing (slalom) pictogram.svg Slalom 1311
Canoeing (flatwater) pictogram.svg Sprint 7
Cycling Cycling (road) pictogram.svg Road cycling117
Cycling (track) pictogram.svg Track cycling1211
Equestrian pictogram.svg Equestrian 211116
Fencing pictogram.svg Fencing 111111118
Field hockey pictogram.svg Field hockey 11
Football pictogram.svg Football 11
Gymnastics pictogram.svg Gymnastics 1124614
Handball pictogram.svg Handball 11
Judo pictogram.svg Judo 111115
Modern pentathlon pictogram.svg Modern pentathlon 22
Rowing pictogram.svg Rowing 77
Sailing pictogram.svg Sailing 66
Shooting pictogram.svg Shooting 1111228
Volleyball pictogram.svg Volleyball 112
Weightlifting pictogram.svg Weightlifting 1111111119
Wrestling pictogram.svg Wrestling 101020
Daily medal events288132716231413 216315341195
Cumulative total2101831587497111124126142145160194195
August/September 197226th
Total events

‡ No medals were awarded on 5 September as all Olympic competitions were suspended during that day although events that were being held at the time of the suspension were allowed to finish to their conclusion.

Note: The Memorial service was held in the Olympic Stadium on 6 September which was attended by 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes. Following this all Olympic competitions were then allowed to resume after a 34 hour suspension.

Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1972 Games.

1Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union 50272299
2Flag of the United States.svg  United States 33313094
3Flag of East Germany.svg  East Germany 20232366
4Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany*13111640
5Flag of Japan (1870-1999).svg  Japan 138829
6Flag of Australia.svg  Australia 87217
7Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg  Poland 75921
8Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary 6131635
9Flag of Bulgaria (1971-1990).svg  Bulgaria 610521
10Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 531018
Totals (10 entries)161138141440

  *   Host nation (West Germany)


The report, titled "Doping in Germany from 1950 to today", details how the West German government helped fund a wide-scale doping program. [29] Doping of East German athletes also, by the GDR government, was systematic and prevalent at the Munich Games of 1972. [30]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Factsheet - Opening Ceremony of the Games of the Olympiad" (PDF) (Press release). International Olympic Committee. 9 October 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 August 2016. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  2. "Ein Geschenk der Deutschen an sich selbst". Der Spiegel (in German). No. 35/1972. 21 August 1972. pp. 28–29. … für die versprochene Heiterkeit der Spiele, die den Berliner Monumentalismus von 1936 vergessen machen und dem Image der Bundesrepublik in aller Welt aufhelfen sollen
  3. Digitized version of the Official Report of the Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXth Olympiad Munich 1972 (Volume 2) (in German). proSport GmbH & Co. KG. München Ed. Herbert Kunze. 1972. p. 22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2015. … the theme of the "cheerful Games"…
  4. "Official Emblem – Munich 1972 Olympics" . Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  5. Strassmair, Michaela (September 2019). "Typisch Oktoberfest? Darum gehört ein Dirndl eigentlich nicht auf die Wiesn". www.focus.de (in German). Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  6. "Herbert Rehbein: Olympic Fanfare Munich 1972 (TV Intro)" . Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  7. Uhrig, Klaus (20 March 2014). "Die gebaute Utopie: Das Münchner Olympiastadion" (in German). Archived from the original on 13 February 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  8. "Past Olympic host city election results". GamesBids. Archived from the original on 24 January 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  9. "IOC VOTE HISTORY". aldaver.com. Archived from the original on 25 May 2008. Retrieved 11 June 2008.
  10. "Transcend – Munich Massacre". Bleacher Report Media Lab. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  11. Countering Terrorism: The Israeli Response To The 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre And The Development Of Independence Covert Action Teams, M.A. thesis by Alexander B. Calahan at Marine Corps Command and Staff College, 1995.
  12. "1972 Olympics – Munich Summer Games results & highlights". International Olympic Committee. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  13. Deming, Mark (2014). "Movies – One Day in September (1999)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  14. "Television – Sword of Gideon". The New York Times . Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  15. Dargis, Manohla (23 December 2005). "An Action Film About the Need to Talk". The New York Times . Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  16. Herbert, Martin. "Sarah Morris". frieze.com. Frieze Magazine. Archived from the original on 18 December 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  17. "USA Basketball". Archived from the original on 22 August 2007.
  18. "120 years, 120 stories (Part 15) : Soviets beat the Americans amidst controversies involving communist judges". 3 March 2016. Archived from the original on 25 February 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  19. Vardon, Joe. "Stolen gold and forgotten silver: 50 years after Americans refused medals, some are missing". The Athletic. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  20. Schiller, K.; Young, C. (2010). The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany. Weimar and now. University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-26213-3 . Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  21. Neil Amdur, "Of Gold and Drugs," The New York Times (4 September 1972). Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  22. 1 2 3 "Athletics at the 1972 Munich Summer Games: Men's Pole Vault". sports-reference.com. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  23. "Better late than never". sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Associated Press. 30 January 2001. Archived from the original on 7 May 2001.
  24. Flyvbjerg, Bent; Stewart, Allison; Budzier, Alexander (2016). The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games. Oxford: Saïd Business School Working Papers (Oxford: University of Oxford). pp. 9–13. arXiv: 1607.04484 . doi:10.2139/ssrn.2804554. S2CID   156794182. SSRN   2804554.
  25. "Sochi 2014: the costliest Olympics yet but where has all the money gone?". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  26. "1972: Rhodesia out of Olympics". 22 August 1972. Retrieved 7 May 2023 via news.bbc.co.uk.
  27. "The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  28. Xiao, Li. "China and the Olympic Movement". China Internet Information Center. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  29. "Report: West Germany systematically doped athletes". USA Today. 3 August 2013.
  30. "Report exposes decades of West German doping". France 24. 5 August 2013.

Further reading

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Succeeded by

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