Sunday, June 08, 2008

Jim McKay, The Munich Olympics And The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Jim McKay passed away yesterday. As mentioned on several local blogs, he was the sportcaster who reported on the horrors at the 1972 Munich Olympics
In 1972, I was stationed at the Nurnburg Army Hospital. Four of us took a VW bug down to Munich for the Olympics, we had gotten tickets for being 'strac' troopers. As we were looking for a place to park in the Olympic park, we ended up at a McDonald's and were surrounded by German police. We produced our passes, ID cards, and waited for an interpreter to arrive. We were eventually given the ok to leave. Those were scary times. AFN was full of warnings to troops to go back to their bases and stay away from Munich. When we arrived back in Nurnburg and entered the hospital gates, the MPs ran mirrors under our car, and searched us and the vehicle.

Another terrorist group of that era was the "Baader-Meinhof" gang of whom, more than likely, you will be hearing about again, real soon.


California Girl said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers this man. He was always to person I saw at during the Olympic coverage and who really made 'The Wide World Of Sports' what it is. Rest in Peace.

Jason said...

Interesting story. That had to be a little unnerving to have the police surround you like that.

McKay was one of the best. There aren't any sportscasters today who seem to be even close to following in McKay's footsteps.

Anonymous said...

More of this, please.

Bill Housden said...


Thanks for the note and your Munich Olympics story.

The State Department memorial page to the Beirut Marine barracks bombing calls that "the first battle in the war on terror," but I think that happened in Munich.

I was stationed in Erlangen, Nurnburg. I had a 4-day weekend pass to attend the Olympics, so I left by train on Saturday, September 2. I had a little cash, and a fresh Army pay check that I intended to cash at a Munich bank.

Advice: When walking in a city of 1 million that is filled with 1 million visitors: don't walk around with your paycheck sticking out of your back pocket. Between the bahnhof and the bank, I lost my pay check

So Saturday evening, my first night there, most of my cash went for an incredibly cozy bed in a family inn.

On Sunday, I watched games until evening, when I caught a soldier shuttle to Dachau Kaserne, outside of Munich. The old SS barracks, occupied by the U.S. Army, were open for G.I. visitors to the Olympics. I visited the gas chamber, a gruesome experience, and yes, I slept in Dachau, too.

On Monday, incredibly, I ran into my Erlangen roommate. He bought me lunch and we climbed a fence to bypass the ticket booth at an event. He cut his hand on the fence and decided to go back to Erlangen.

I rode local trains most of Monday night, using tickets that tourists had thrown away. Riding became a drag toward dawn, so I wandered back to the Olympic stadium.

Munich may have been the last time that Olympic grounds were left unlocked and unguarded overnight.

I went back to the stadium to snooze in the stands, but it was chilly and the Olympic flame looked inviting, so I walked up under the bowl that was about 15 feet overhead. Little warm air pockets were whipping under the torch.

I sat down, leaned against the support and took a short nap. When the sun began to rise, I started back to Erlangen.

By Tuesday afternoon, I was hitching a ride with an officer and his wife headed to Furth. Along the way, we heard the news about the murder of the Jewish athletes.

They dropped me off and I hitched on to Erlangen, thinking about the safety warnings issued on AFN to U.S. personnel across Germany that afternoon.

It has taken 39 years for me to run across anyone who was at those Olympic games.

That collie in the photo seems interested in something there, Jim. lol

Bill said...

mmm.. should say "I was stationed in Erlangen, near Nurnburg."

Bill said...

"When walking in a city of 1 million that is filled with 1 million visitor" should read 5 million and 5 million. It's a big town.