On July 27, 1996, the world was startled when a pipe bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. The bomb killed one person directly, another indirectly (heart attack) and injured 111 others.
The Atlanta bombing, which was an act of domestic terrorism by one man, was not the first, nor the most horrifying, act of terrorism to affect the summer Olympics. That sad distinction belongs to the Munich Olympics of 1972, when terrorists from the Palestinian Black September organization led a terrorist attack against the Israeli athletes in Munich’s Olympic Village, where the athletes were housed.
The well-planned attack began in the early hours of the morning when the terrorists climbed the fence of the Olympic Village and entered the Israelis' housing unit. The Israelis resisted the attack and two were immediately killed trying to stop the terrorists. Seven team members were able to escape. The remaining nine were taken hostage.
The terrorists demanded the release of 234 prisoners held in Israeli jails, as well as members of the German Red Army Faction being held in German prisons. The German government agreed to arrange air transportation to Egypt for the terrorists and their hostages, but were hoping to use the change of location as an opportunity to take down the terrorists. Unfortunately, numerous factors converged so that the German police forces were under-armed and generally unprepared at the airport. The Terrorists quickly realized that they had entered a trap and murdered the hostages before blowing up the helicopters in which they had been brought to the airport.
Five of the eight terrorists were killed at the airport. The other three were arrested by the Germans, only to be released at the demand of the hijackers of a Lufthansa airplane about seven weeks later.
Beyond the bloodshed, what is perhaps most shocking about the events at the 1972 Munich Olympics is how little they actually affected the games. In fact, the athletic competitions continued for several hours before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to suspend the Games for one day.
On September 6, the day after the massacre, a memorial service was held in the Olympic Stadium, but little else was done to acknowledge the terrible tragedy.
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