Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics, Then and Now

As the United States and indeed, all the world, seems totally absorbed in the current Summer Olympic Games now underway in Beijing, China, I couldn't help but note some interesting parrells between those games and the ones that occurred while we were at Vanderbilt...the 1972 Munich Games.

Much as the current gathering of nations in Beijing has become a showcase for the new, modern China, so the 1972 Games sought to have that same impact for the new, modern (West) Germany of its day, finally emerging from the rubble of the Second World War (this was long before anyone could forsee the collapse of The Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany).

At the Munich Games, when American Mark Spitz set the all-time record of garnering 7 Gold Medals in a single Olympics, most thought it was an achievement never to be surpassed. But now comes another American swimmer Michael Phelps, who appears to be on his way to winning 8 Gold Medals in a single Olympiad.

But, unfortunately, the Munich Games will always be remembered primarily for the tragic terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of a number of members of the Israeli Olympic team.

It was a terrible event that changed the Games and indeed, the entire world, forever. Little did we realize at the time how terrorism and the threat of such attacks would impact our years after leaving Vanderbilt; how it would become such an unfortunate and unwelcome part of our daily lives.

While most of us were busy beginning our senior year at Vanderbilt in that September of 1972 (The Olympics were held later in the year in those days),
no doubt the attached video above (courtesy of the wonderful Vanderbilt News Archives) will bring back some of the memories of that time.

The video, much like the Games, begins with a routine Evening News Report by Walter Cronkite about results from the Games, followed by a segment on NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor, the day after the tragic Munich massacre.

Please leave your thoughts and memories below, including your remembrances of our senior year at Vanderbilt, which was just beginning to unfold during the Munich Olympic Games.

There are more news videos to come in the weeks ahead, spotlighting the important (and maybe the not-so-important) events of our years at Vanderbilt.

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