The then 16-year-old Meyfarth thrilled hosts West Germany with an expected high jump gold medal in Munich’s Olympic stadium.
Less than 12 hours later, on Sept. 5, 1972, Palestinian gunmen attacked Israel’s team at the Games. The attack ended in a failed rescue operation by German security forces later in the day, with 11 Israelis losing their lives, one German policeman and five of the attackers.
Nasse-Meyfarth will be among 600 guests set to attend the memorial service, including German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer and German Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
The delegation from Israel is led by Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Schalom and features survivors and relatives of the victims, such as Ankie Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer.
Just a few weeks ago Spitzer said “shame on you IOC” to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge as the IOC resisted a campaign from Spitzer and others to hold a minute’s silence for the victims at the opening ceremony of the London Games.
The IOC says the opening ceremony was not appropriate place for such a tribute and that it has a permanent memorial at its Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Rogge and other Olympians held a minute’s silence in the London athletes village at the Olympic truce wall, and the IOC also will have a delegation in Fuerstenfeldbruck, although Rogge will be absent because of hip surgery.
Wednesday’s memorial in Fuerstenfeldbruck is Germany’s contribution to keep the memory alive and ensure ongoing solidarity with the Israeli victims.
The events from 40 years ago changed the Olympics as terrorism reached the Games, which were revived in 1896 as a peaceful sports competition among nations.
Munich wanted to celebrate a happy Games to show Germany’s radical change after World War II. Fences were no real obstacles and security personnel wore grey suits or track suits.
Now Olympic parks resemble fortresses, secret services have a new playing field and the military is involved heavily in billion-dollar Olympic security operations to safeguard athletes, officials and spectators.
Some 20,000 soldiers were present at the recent London Games which spent $1.5 billion on security alone – more than the $1.25 billion Munich needed at the time to update its infrastructure, build the venues and stage the Games.
Another relic from the 1972 Games is the controversial sentence “The Games must go on” from then IOC president Avery Brundage at the Sept. 6, 1972, memorial in Munich’s Olympic stadium.
Olympians decided the continue the Munich Games on Sept. 7 despite the tragedy. The intention was that terrorism cannot win and that life must go on.