1972. The First Olympics held in Germany since the Nazi Olympics of 1936.
The summer Olympics in Munich in 1972 were the most carefully planned sports festival of modern times. West German officials hoped to obliterate the impressions left by the 1936 Nazi Games in Berlin by mounting what would be the most spectacular of all celebrations of international sport.
Richard Mandell’s account of the Berlin Games of 1936, The Nazi Olympics, was assigned reading for all planning officials in Munich, and Mandell was invited to observe the Munich Games.
For three weeks, he had access to all the sites and all the planners and participants. In this firsthand account of the Games, Mandell records his impressions of the aesthetic, political, and athletic dimensions of the spectacle.
Many of his observations are about design: the plastic roof that covered acres, the visual Esperanto of color-coded uniforms, the catalogs for the many art exhibitions, the newly devised “pictograms” directing visitors around the Olympic facilities that transformed Munich.
Mandell also writes about modern sports equipment and about television and sport. He describes what he learned by watching training fields, saunas, and in the all-you-can-eat cafeterias and listening in on athletes’ conversations in the Olympic Village.
However, this Olympics also took a dark turn.
The 1972 Olympics are most remembered as the scene of a terrorist attack against the Israeli team.
Mandell was one of those who attempted to get the Games canceled after this episode; he tells here of the funeral ceremony in the main stadium — a stark contrast to the splendid, day-long ceremony that had opened the Games — and of the massacre of the hostages and terrorists at the Munich airport.
But Mandell’s focus is on other aspects of the Munich Games — most especially on the role of art and design and on political and spiritual issues in the Olympics covered only slightly by newspapers and neglected by historians.
Richard D. Mandell (1929-2013) was a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. He was also the author of Sport: A Cultural History, The First Modern Olympics. and The Nazi Olympics
A Brief History:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of the Olympic games. There’s just something about it that grabs me from the opening ceremony until the flame is put out. But the one thing I had never done (until now), was read about some of the game’s history.
After reading a couple of chapters of this book, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it. Richard D. Mandell packed so much information into his book that it was taking me forever to get through it, so I thought about giving it up.
But I’m glad I stuck with it, because every detail Mandell mentions is there for a reason. And many times during the book I thought “Oh, that makes sense” because the author had taken time to explain something earlier on.
The ’72 Munich games are of course remembered mainly for the terrorist attack against the Israeli team. But reading about the events leading up, during, and after the attack gave me a whole new view of that terrible September day. But this book is about more than jus that day.
In this book you’ll learn what it took for Munich to host the games, how the city made attempts to differ from the 1936 Berlin games, and how much hosting an Olympics cost a city back then.
The fact that Richard D. Mandell had basically unprecedented access before and during the games makes The Olympics of 1972: A Munich Diary a unique look at a moment not only in sport history, but in world history.
Whether you’re a sports fan or just a history buff, The Olympics of 1972: A Munich Diary is definitely worth reading.
- You can get Richard D. Mandell’s The Olympics of 1972: A Munich Diary over at Amazon.