On Sept. 11, HBO will air One Day in September, the
Oscar-winning documentary that recounts the massacre of Israeli
athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Former SI Senior Writer
Kenny Moore, who finished fourth in the marathon at those Games,
offers this opinion of the film:
I've never gone back to Munich. Not that it doesn't come back to
me. For years, when I'd wonder whether the world had exacted any
payment from the three fugitive terrorists for the 11 Israeli
coaches and athletes they murdered in 1972, for the Olympic
sanctuary they defiled, my teammate Frank Shorter, who won the
Munich marathon, would say two words: "Think Mossad." He was
right. We learn in September that the Israeli intelligence
service administered Old Testament justice by hunting down and
killing Adnan Al Gashey and Mohammed Safady.
We also learn, however, that one terrorist is still alive.
Director Kevin Macdonald found him hiding somewhere in Africa.
Jamil Al Gashey was only 18 in 1972, but he was then and is now a
good soldier. His narrative is the journalistic heart of
September and has the clarity of a report to a superior officer.
He's proud of what he did. He grew up in Palestinian refugee
camps and didn't bat an eye when he was told the target, only
hours before the raid. He killed innocents so that his cause
might register on the world's consciousness. He'd do it again. So
I recoiled again at the zealot's presumption that everybody must
live in the world of an eye for an eye.
Much of the rest of the film is familiar. The lax Olympic
Village security, the almost-stupefied dithering of the German
authorities, the crucial inability to discover how many
terrorists there were. These events are expertly recounted, but
the film commits an infuriating sin by tarring innocents while
attempting to indict the IOC for letting the Games go on too
long that day. The hostages were taken at dawn. IOC President
Avery Brundage didn't stop the Games until 3:50 p.m., but
September cuts back and forth from the hooded terrorists to
images of Valeri Borzov winning the 100 meters, Mohamed Gammoudi
and Steve Prefontaine running in the 5,000, Dave Bedford and
Lasse Viren dueling in the 10,000 and Shorter triumphing in the
The implication is that the athletes were callously ignoring the
hostages inside the compound. In fact, the 100 and 10,000 were
over days before the attack. The 5,000 and marathon were days
later, after the memorial service and much soul-searching. Take
it from me, we would not have run on Sept. 5. To imply that we
did is a calumny upon those of us whose Olympic mission was to
get together and compete rather than kill one another, and thus
present a glimpse of a better world.