Where Were You In ’72?

In a few minutes, I’ll lace up my Nike Vomero running shoes (black and gold swoosh for Harding–Hail, alma mater!) and once again hit the pavement for an early morning 5-miler. It’s a habit with roots from the early 1970s, more specifically, the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

I’ve been reminiscing some about that time these past few days as I’ve been writing my next Huntsville Times community column which will appear on August 10th, the opening weekend of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

Here’s a sneak preview:

During the 1972 Munich Games, American runners like Jim Ryun, Steve Prefontaine, Dave Wottle and Frank Shorter captured my elementary schoolboy imagination and launched my own much less stellar running career…

…I fashioned a makeshift running singlet by cutting off the sleeves of a white t-shirt and stenciling a crude “U.S.A.” across the front in red and blue magic marker. Soon I was racing an imaginary Kip Keino around my house, and I eventually wore a bare path in my father’s lawn, not as sacred and pristine as the track at the University of Oregon’s legendary Hayward Field, but just as oval…

Intrigued? Check back on August 10th for the rest of the story.

From the opening ceremonies until the Olympic flame was extinguished and the charge given to the world’s athletes to reassemble in Montreal in 1976, the Munich Olympic Games were marked forever in controversy and tragedy.

I’ll be serving up some of my own memories of that time and trying to track down some vintage YouTube footage as well.

It would go even better if we could make it a group project. Where were you in ’72?

To my Gen X and Y readers: Yeah, yeah, I know some of you weren’t even born yet. But you can still talk about your earliest Olympic memories if you like.

  1. Hal

    I remember the Munich games in ’72. They were the first Olympic games that I remember watching. I was 11 years old and living just up the Severn river from the Naval Academy in a community called Arnold, MD.

    The highlights that I remember most from those games were Mark Spitz winning his record 7 gold medals and Olga Korbut’s stunning performance on the uneven parallel bars. Sadly, I also remember the Palestinian terrorists killing the 11 Israeli athletes.

    I also vaguely remember two Black American athletes acting disrespectful on the medal stand as the Star Spangled Banner was playing. Afterwards I recall my grandfather criticizing them and using the “N” word to describe them. I remember thinking that the athletes were wrong in how they acted, but perhaps they had such an attitude because of the way they were treated. Irony and hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds.

    When I was stationed in Germany, 16 years later, I had the opportunity to visit the Olympic park. The acrylic glass canopy over the stadium is a fabulous piece of architecture. Munich is a beautiful city and the Olympic park is a great place to visit there.

    I look forward, as usual, to reading your article.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hal, you may be thinking of Tommie Smith and John Carlos and their Black Power salute on the medal stand in ’68. But there may have been medal stand protests in ’72 also, I’ll look into that.

    Weirdness, controversy and tragedy abounded in Munich; but there were some great performances as well.

    Speaking of which, do you think Michael Phelps will finally break Spitz’s record this time?

  3. mmlace

    Sorry, I fall into that ‘not-alive-in-1972’ category.

    One of my first olympic memories was not from the summer Olympics but of the winter Olympics in 1994 w/the Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan mess! I just remember that being all I heard about!

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hal, your memory was spot on.

    The two black athletes you’re thinking about were Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett who, like Smith and Carlos, medaled in the 400 meters. Apparently they joked around and twirled their medals while the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played, and many assumed it was some sort of protest like ’68.

    They denied it, but were suspended anyway and banned from the Olympics for life. Their absence, along with John Smith’s injury, forced the US to withdraw from the 4 X 400 relay in which they were heavy favorites.

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    It’s not your fault you’re not a Boomer–not everybody can be so lucky (sarcasm off).

    That’s a pretty blue collar Olympic memory there, mmlace! I would do a search to see “Where is Tonya now?” but I’m afraid to look.

  6. Hal

    I think Phelps certainly has a shot. He’s an amazing swimmer. My prediction, however, is that he won’t break Spitz’s record.

    I also remember the black power salute in ’68, so I guess my memory of the Olympic games goes further back than ’72.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    I think Phelps has devolved back into a fish (have you seen his dolphin kick?).

    I say he does it. Unless he gets another DUI first.

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