On Sept. 11, HBO will air One Day in September, the Oscar-winning documentary that recounts the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Former SI Senior Writer Kenny Moore, who finished fourth in the marathon at those Games, offers this opinion of the film:
I've never gone back to Munich. Not that it doesn't come back to me. For years, when I'd wonder whether the world had exacted any payment from the three fugitive terrorists for the 11 Israeli coaches and athletes they murdered in 1972, for the Olympic sanctuary they defiled, my teammate Frank Shorter, who won the Munich marathon, would say two words: "Think Mossad." He was right We learn in September that the Israeli intelligence service administered Old Testament justice by hunting down and killing Adnan Al Gashey and Mohammed Safady.
We also learn, however, that one terrorist is still alive. Director Kevin Macdonald found him hiding somewhere in Africa. Jamil Al Gashey was only 18 in 1972, but he was then and is now a good soldier. His narrative is the journalistic heart of September and has the clarity of a report to a superior officer.
He's proud of what he did. He grew up in Palestinian refugee camps and didn't bat an eye when he was told the target, only hours before the raid. He killed innocents so that his cause might register on the world's consciousness. He'd do it again. So I recoiled again at the zealot's presumption that everybody must live in the world of an eye for an eye.
Much of the rest of the film is familiar. The lax Olympic Village security, the almost-stupefied dithering of the German authorities, the crucial inability to discover how many terrorists there were. These events are expertly recounted, but the film commits an infuriating sin by tarring innocents while attempting to indict the IOC for letting the Games go on too long that day. The hostages were taken at dawn. IOC President Avery Brundage didn't stop the Games until 3:50 p.m., but September cuts back and forth from the hooded terrorists to images of Valeri Borzov winning the 100 meters, Mohamed Gammoudi and Steve Prefontaine running in the 5,000, Dave Bedford and Lasse Viren dueling in the 10,000 and Shorter triumphing in the marathon.
The implication is that the athletes were callously ignoring the hostages inside the compound. In fact, the 100 and 10,000 were over days before the attack. The 5,000 and marathon were days later, after the memorial service and much soul-searching. Take it from me, we would not have run on Sept. 5. To imply that we did is a calumny upon those of us whose Olympic mission was to get together and compete rather than kill one another, and thus present a glimpse of a better world.