SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
November 08, 1976
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November 08, 1976


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This Sunday night at 9 p.m. (EST) NBC is showing Gone with the Wind, but if you prefer faster-paced action, switch to ABC for a thriller called 21 Flours at Munich. This is the "dramatized true story of the Palestinian terrorists' attack on Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972," the Munich massacre in which 11 Israelis, five Arab terrorists and one German policeman were killed. It is every bit as bloody and entertaining as the current Dustin Hoffman-Laurence Olivier hit, Marathon Man.

Which may be the trouble. Although the sites of the tragedy—the Olympic Village and Munich's F�rstenfeldbruck airport—were used as sets and there are a few film clips of the actual Games, the movie is just that: a movie, not a documentary. William Holden plays Munich Police Chief Manfred Schreiber ("Listen, you animal," he tells the terrorist leader, "we aren't going to do anything for you unless we see every single hostage alive"). Richard Basehart is West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. Anthony Quayle plays General Zvi Zamir, the Israeli security official.

The biggest role belongs to Italian actor Franco Nero, who plays the Arab terrorist leader, Issa. Nero, wearing an immaculate white hat and a well-cut beige suit, has several scenes with handsome blonde Shirley Knight, a glamorized version of Annaliese Gr�s of the Olympic Security Service, who acted as an intermediary between the Arab leader and the authorities. Nero plays his part with great skill, to the point that he even manages to arouse sympathy for his plight. When one of his fellow terrorists dies by his side and it is obvious that the 727 at F�rstenfeldbruck is not going to take off, a closeup shows Nero's blue eyes filled with tears. He has failed. He kills the nine manacled hostages in the two helicopters and is killed himself. It may be as perverse as life itself, but it is effective theater. Nero's Issa is a victim, too, betrayed by the German police and his own twisted ideals.

But how can the total reality of what happened at Munich be used this way? As reporting, the film fails: on the screen the Israelis are only victims, pitiable but one-dimensional. Their tragedy does not come across, and the "re-creation" fails to deliver the full impact of one of the most hideous crimes committed since World War II.


Los Angeles is beginning to receive hints from Olympic authorities that it ought to bid for the 1984 Games, the implication being that the International Olympic Committee would look favorably on such a bid. This is contrary to the way it was in the 1950s and 1960s when the U.S. Olympic Committee seemed always to pick Detroit—a curious choice—to be the American city proffering a bid to the IOC. Not until it came time to choose a site for the 1976 Games did Los Angeles become the American entry, and then the IOC passed up L.A.—in our Bicentennial Year—to select Montreal. As if to placate the U.S., it turned around and picked Denver for the 1976 Winter Games instead of Canada's Banff, a far more logical site. Denver folded a year or two later (the IOC had to make a hurried switch to Innsbruck) and Montreal nearly folded. Los Angeles made a strong bid for the 1980 Games, too, but the IOC chose Moscow instead.

Now the Olympic people seem to want Los Angeles, and both Philip Krumm, retiring president of the USOC, and Julian Roosevelt of the USOC, an IOC member, have gone on record urging that city to bid. To no one's surprise, the California metropolis has not reacted by jumping up and down and clapping its hands. Even though it has distinct advantages as an Olympic site—many existing facilities, including some built for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, a huge sports-minded population, excellent weather—the memory of Montreal's troubles is strong. Councilman Arthur Snyder says, "Unless we can be sure that public expenditures would be offset by increases in employment and income from tourists, we shouldn't get involved."

Even those in favor of the Games are cautious. Councilman Marvin Braude says, "I'm skeptical...but if it can be clearly demonstrated that the city would benefit without cost to the taxpayer, I'd be supportive." And Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson warns, "I'd strongly support the bid...if the IOC is prepared to conduct the Games in a Spartan atmosphere."


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