During the 1972 Summer Olympics at Munich, in the early morning of September 5, a group of Palestinian terrorists storms the Olympic Village apartment of the Israeli athletes, killing two and taking nine others hostage. The terrorists were part of a group known as Black September, in return for the release of the hostages, they demanded that Israel release over 230 Arab prisoners being held in Israeli jails and two German terrorists. In an ensuing shootout at the Munich airport, the nine Israeli hostages were killed along with five terrorists and one West German policeman. Olympic competition was suspended for 24 hours to hold memorial services for the slain athletes.
READ MORE: When World Events Disrupted the Olympics
The Munich Olympics opened on August 26, 1972, with 195 events and 7,173 athletes representing 121 countries. On the morning of September 5, Palestinian terrorists in ski masks ambushed the Israeli team. After negotiations to free the nine Israelis broke down, the terrorists took the hostages to the Munich airport. Once there, German police opened fire from rooftops and killed three of the terrorists. A gun battle erupted and left the hostages, two more Palestinians and a policeman dead.
After a memorial service was held for the athletes at the main Olympic stadium, International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage ordered that the games continue, to show that the terrorists hadn’t won. Although the tragedy deeply marred the games, there were numerous moments of spectacular athletic achievement, including American swimmer Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals and teenage Russian gymnast Olga Korbut’s two dramatic gold-medal victories.
In the aftermath of the murders at the ’72 Olympics, the Israeli government, headed by Golda Meir, hired a group of Mossad agents to track down and kill the Black September assassins. The 2005 Stephen Spielberg movie Munich was based on these events.