World ? Europe ? Germany ? Munich

Munich: The Olympic Grounds

Olympiapark (tel. 089/30-67-0; www.olympiapark-muenchen.de; U-Bahn: Olympiazentrum), site of the 1972 Olympic Games, occupies 300 hectares (741 acres) at the city's northern edge. More than 15,000 workers from 18 countries transformed the site into a park of nearly 5,000 trees, 43km (27 miles) of roads, 32 bridges, and a lake. Olympiapark is a city in itself: It has its own railway station, U-Bahn line, mayor, post office, churches, and elementary school. The planners even broke the city skyline by adding a 293m (961-ft.) television tower in the center of the park.

The area's showpiece is a huge Olympic Stadium, capable of seating 69,300 spectators, and topped by the largest roof in the world -- nearly 67,000 sq. m. (721,182 sq. ft.) of tinted acrylic glass. The roof serves the additional purpose of collecting rainwater and draining it into the nearby Olympic lake.

Olympia Tower, Olympiapark (tel. 089/30-67-27-50), is open daily 9am to 11:30pm. A ticket for a ride up the tower (on the speediest elevator on the continent, no less) costs 4€ ($4.80) for adults and 2.50€ ($3) for children under 16. An exclusive dining spot in the tower is the Tower Restaurant (tel. 089/30668585), which features a selection of international and German dishes. Food is served daily 11am to 5pm and 6:30 to 11pm. A complete dinner costs 40€ to 66€ ($48-$79). The food is good and fresh, but of secondary consideration -- most come here for the extraordinary view, which reaches to the Alps. Four observation platforms look out over Olympiapark. The Tower Restaurant revolves around its axis in 60 minutes, giving guests who linger a changing vista of Munich. Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.

At the base of the tower is the Restaurant Olympiasee, Spiridon-Louis-Ring 7 (tel. 089/30-67-28-22), serving genuine Bavarian specialties, with meals costing 10€ ($12) and up. Favored items include half a roast chicken and various hearty soups. Food is served daily 10am to 7pm (8:30pm in summer). The restaurant is popular in summer because of its terrace. No credit cards are accepted. Take U-Bahn U3 or U8 to Olympiazentrum.

Near Olympiapark, you can visit the BMW Museum, Petuelring 130 (tel. 089/38-22-33-07; U-Bahn: Petuelring or Olympiazentrum), where the history of the automobile is stunningly displayed in an atmosphere created by Oscar-winner Rolf Zehetbauer, a "film architect." The exhibition "Horizons in Time," housed in a "demisphere" of modern architecture, takes you into the future and back to the past. You can view 24 video films and 10 slide shows (an especially interesting one shows how people of yesterday imagined the future). Many of the exhibits are in English. The museum is open daily 9am to 5pm, charging 4€ ($4.80) for adults and 2.50€ ($3) for children. While here, you might also ask about BMW factory tours. Take U-Bahn Olympiazentrum.

Munich's Soccer Craze

Like Italy, England, and Brazil, Germany is crazed over soccer. Munich's famous soccer team (and one of Europe's most outstanding) is the Bayern Mɒnchen. However, it's a matter of civic pride to many Mɒnchners, especially when they're soaked with beer, to root enthusiastically for a less-well-rated local team, T.S.V. 1860 Mɒnchen. This team was around about 40 years before Bayern Mɒnchen was founded, and it still arouses local loyalty -- something like the Chicago White Sox as opposed to the much beloved and beleaguered Chicago Cubs. Both teams call the Olympic Stadium in Olympiapark their home.

If you want to attend a soccer match, chances are good there'll be one in Munich's enormous Olympic Stadium . For more information, call the Soccer League Association at 089/69-93-10. To get tickets for any sports event, call tel. 089/54-81-81-81, Monday to Friday 10am to 8pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm.

Black September for the Olympics

The 1972 Munich Olympics, the largest ever in history, was meant to celebrate peace among nations, and for the first 10 days, they did. However, in the early morning hours of September 5, eight Palestinian terrorists, later claiming to be part of the "Black September" terrorist group, sneaked into the Olympic Village. Within a few minutes of entering the quarters of the sleeping Israeli athletes, they had already killed two Israelis and taken nine others hostage.

As the ensuing siege was played out on TV sets around the world, the terrorists demanded the release of 200 Arab guerillas jailed in Israel, and safe passage for themselves and their hostages. Few novelists could have conceived the plot (and mistakes by German law enforcement) that ensued, as negotiations helplessly and hopelessly dragged on between the terrorists and the West German security officials. In Israel, Golda Meir firmly stood by her government's policy of "not dealing with terrorists." The job of dealing with the terrorists fell clearly upon the shoulders of the West Germans.

By 8:30pm on the day of the attack, the first of three helicopters landed at Olympic Village to fly the terrorists and their hostages out of West Germany via a Lufthansa 737 that was waiting at the military air base at Fɒrstenfeldbruck, 24km (15 miles) away. Blinded and tied close together, the Israeli athletes, along with their heavily armed captors, were placed into the helicopters and flown away, landing at Fɒrstenfeldbruck at 10:30pm.

The negotiations between the terrorists and West German security officials suddenly collapsed when a West German sharpshooter hidden in the darkness fired unexpectedly at the terrorists. The Palestinians quickly responded by unleashing automatic fire at the tied and bound Israelis; one tossed a hand grenade into a helicopter, killing all of the remaining hostages. In response, the West Germans unleashed their firepower, killing five of the terrorists, and eventually capturing the others.

Mark Spitz, an American Jew and winner of seven gold medals, was flown out of Germany for his own safety as the Olympic Games were suspended for the first time in their history. The world mourned, and in a controversial decision, the Germans continued the games 34 hours later, with mixed reactions from both the world at large and the participating athletes. The presiding officer of the games, Avery Brundage, issued a famous pronouncement, "The Games must go on!" and so they did.

For more on this tragic event, read the book One Day in September, by Simon Reeve (Arcade Publishing), or watch the documentary movie of the same title.

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