Munich Olympic fiasco and Pakistan hockey

Published Aug 01, 2012 08:01pm

US swimmer Michael Phelps Mark Spitz's record at the Beijing Olympics. -Photo by AFP

South Africa already leading 1-0 in the three-match Test series take England on once again at Headingley in the second Test aiming to win the series before it is over. It may not be beyond them if the weather holds and they perform with as much strength as they did show at The Oval in their annihilation of England beating them by an innings.

What is of interest, of course, is the expected debut of James Taylor of Nottinghamshire, a 5-ft 5-in son of a jockey. He has been prolific in county cricket and has replaced Ravi Bopara who had withdrawn from the team citing ‘personal reason’.

Cricket, however, in England has taken a backseat because of the Olympics which are in progress in London and at different venues. It is important, therefore, that I focus more on the Games than the Test match at Headingley.

I find it very important that the modern-day generation be kept informed about the heroes of the past and the Olympic Games of previous years. I find myself duty-bound to let the younger lot know about it.

One of the most memorable and eventful Games were the Munich Olympics of 1972 of which I am a first hand witness.

It will not only be remembered for ‘Munich Massacre’ in which eleven Israeli Athletes were killed after being taken hostage in the Olympic Village, but also for the controversy that followed Pakistan’s 0-1 defeat at the hands of West Germany in field hockey final.

The Games will also be remembered for Russian girl Olga Korbut’s sensational performance at the beam in gymnastics and the record-breaking performance of United States swimmer Mark Spitz who claimed seven gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the 1972 Games.

His countryman Michael Phelps, however, broke that record in the 2008 Olympics taking eight golds. And now having won another gold in the London Games, he has a tally of 15 gold, four silver and a bronze.

The Israeli squad, after arriving in Munich, had settled down well in their apartments at the Olympic Village and the Games were in the second week when they were surprised by the Palestinian intruders calling themselves ‘Black September’, eight of them fully armed who took the team hostage, demanding the release of 234 of their prisoners held in Israeli jails.

When their demands were not met, they shot eleven of the team members, their coaches and one West German policeman. Five of the eight Palestinians were also killed. Three were arrested but were released following the hijacking of the West German airliner, Lufthansa.

First time in the Olympics history, the Games were suspended for memorial service and those who escaped the disaster left for Israel and withdrew from the Games.

I had gone to Munich by car from London with Salahuddin (Sallu) to watch Pakistan’s hockey matches. It was after the day of the massacre that we arrived and despite the tight security we managed to stay in the Olympic Village, courtsey the legendary Olympian Islahuddin.

Pakistan sailed along to reach the hockey final to face the Germans. They played impressive hockey to survive till the sixtieth minute when Michael Krausse put one in the Pakistan goal which the Greenshirts disputed and did not accept as fair, given by the Argentinian referee Horacio Servetto.

Then Pakistan manager G.R. Chaudhry thought the outcome, the 1-0 defeat of his team, was pre-planned because until 1972 India and Pakistan had won every Olympic hockey gold since 1928.

At the award ceremony, when the national anthem of Germany was played, the Pakistan players turned their backs on the flag and after receiving their silver medal some of Pakistan players took their shoes off to hang their medals on the shoes instead of wearing the medals.

Their action of protest infuriated the International Olympic Committee (IOC) so much that Pakistan was banned for life but after an apology by the Pakistan hockey officials the ban was reduced to two years.

I well remember that even the Pakistan commentators were also banned by the PHF later on.

The stars of Pakistan were Islahuddin, late Munawwar-uz-Zaman, Shahnaz Sheikh and Akhtar Rasool to name a few. It was a novel experinece to be an eye-witness of one of the best Olympics of the modern era.

Pakistan’s hockey was at its zenith and the respect and attention that its players attracted was amazing.

Comparing to what I experienced at Munich, the present Games does not seem to have that atmosphere around it despite the best efforts of the organisers who are still struggling to get packed stadium for any event.


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