Munich 1972: Friedhelm Speck about working in the Olympic Village – and about Sports and Terror at the Olympics.

Friedhelm Speck in his home – 50 years after the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

September 1972. The Munich Olympics. Friedhelm Speck, in his main job Police inspector in a small town near Cologne, Germany, is on location. His job there, while being released from duty for one year: Being in a leading position at the security service in the Olympic Village.

Today a very popular residential area, the Village was built from scratch. Like the whole Olympic Park. Still famous for its architecture – the spectacular roof, a lake and small hills, that should and still do resemble the Alps.

The Olympic Village – photographed in the early 1970s.

For one year Speck worked at the Village. Even before the Olympics started in September 1972. And he worked there during the most dramatic hours of the games, starting September 5th. The day, Palestinian terrorists attacked the Israeli team.

Back then terrorists of the Black September group took a total of eleven hostages. Their goal: The release of 328 imprisoned comrades-in-arms – including terrorists from the RAF in Germany.

The leader of the group had previously been the manager of the milk bar on the site, Friedhelm Speck recalls. He had previously negotiated with him about free milk for his 300 security officers. The head of the milk bar agreed, Speck says. Today he does not want to take his name in the mouth any more.

Friedhelm Speck (r.) during the Olympics – dressed in the official clothes of the security service.

Friedhelm Speck was 37 years old during the Olympics. With the games taking place shortly before his birthday on September 14. Everything had been ready for joyful games, Speck says. “The event was worked out years before. It was tremendous what was created there.”

Whenever possible Friedhelm Speck attended sporting events. Athletics, swimming. With many of the sports facilities in walking distance to the village. A fact that the terrorists also took advantage of. They climbed over one of the fences. Speck had just finished his shift and was sleeping while things happened at night. In the morning, his company car was already on site, as he shared it with a colleague. And so he had to travel to the village by public transport.

Speck at Connollystreet 31, after laying down a wreath

In order to distinguish the snipers from the terrorists, who were also dressed as athletes, he had negotiated with the sports outfitter to get different colored suits, says Friedhelm Speck.

After that, it became the responsibility of higher levels: Hans-Dietrich Genscher, back then German Federal Minister of the Interior, negotiated with the attackers. The latter ultimately murdered all eleven hostages. Five hostage-takers and a policeman also died in a failed rescue operation at nearby Fürstenfeldbruck Airport. The situation ended in tragedy.

For Friedhelm Speck the events came to an end at Gate 1 of the Olympic Village, which was under his direction, he says. The following events he did not witness.

Until today, Speck never went back to the Olympic Village – but kept a large collection of photos and graphics from the games.

“It was very, very bad. Horrific,” Speck recalls. Even today, he is very touched when he talks about the events. After the terror the decision was made to go on with the games. Speck remained on site until October 10. Afterwards he went back to his hometown. Back there, he had to find his place again in the fight against crime. “Both jobs were very different,” he says. Until today he never got back to the Olympic Village.