By Ken Bediako
I watched on CNN last Sunday, the solemn 21st anniversary of the tragic “9/11” bombing of America’s World Trade Centre that killed thousands of innocent people and it sadly reminded me of the invasion of the Olympic Games Village in Munich 1972 that killed 11 Israeli athletes.
Even though the scale of casualties cannot definitely be comparable, the impact on the psyche of the world and their implications were equally nerve racking and intriguing. I was a young 31-year-old sports writer from the Daily Graphic covering the Olympic Games for the first time.
I was right in the thick of events at the Olympic Village annex that included the Press Centres. The whole episode looked like a dream to me.
The Games had begun with the usual gaiety and splendour with thousands of the sporting youth from nearly 160 countries engaging in healthy sports rivalry. For eight days or so it had been all fun and socialising when suddenly, and overnight, the Games Village had turned into a war zone.
Massive military presence, security men armed to the teeth, heavy artillery dominated the Olympic Village and large swathe of
helicopters hovering all around. Anxious looking Olympic officials were holding meetings in groups, nervous sportsmen and sports women forced to keep indoors and the swarm of sports journalists all wondering what the matter could be.
Confusion and panicking galore.
Soon the International Olympic Committe broke the ice by holding a grand press conference.
The Media was briefed on how some Palestine bandits had stormed the Israeli dormitory at the Olympic Village and taken 11 athletes hostage. In a bid to rescue the athletes by the German authorities, the 11 athletes had been killed in a shoot out with the bandits at midnight. The bandits were disguised like athletes in track suits returning to the Games Village after a night out in town.
Faced with this unexpected catastrophe, the fate of the Munich Olympics hung in the balance. There were frantic and desperate calls to abandon the Games but the International Olympic Committee (IOC] had other ideas. Led by its President American
Avery Brundage, the IOC stood its grounds that the Olympics must not succumb to bandits. The vision of founder Pierre du Coubertin in 1896 should be cherished.
“The Games must go on”, Avery Brundage shouted triumphantly at a Memorial service organised for the slain Israeli athletes at a fully packed Munich Olympic Stadium a day after the killings.
And so 48 hours after the gruesome murder of the 11 Israeli athletes, the gloomy atmosphere at the Olympic Village changed into its sporting spectacle as track suits became one more time the dominant attire at all the Games venues.
The Games continued to the end all right but you could notice a sense of insecurity around. Not surprisingly, most of the off pitch entertainment
programmes at the end of such big sports carnivals were cancelled. There was a mad rush of both competing athletes and tourists wanting to fly home quickly when Games officially came to a close.
The Palestine bandits had invariably succeeded in robbing the Munich Olympics a lot of its shine.
Worse for me and my late colleague Willie Kwarteng of The Ghanaian Times, our Ghana Airways air tickets in my custody incredibly got missing on the day of our departure home.
It took four days to get a fresh ticket while we enjoyed free boarding and lodging at the virtually empty Games Village. The full story will be told another time but for the records, I would like to recall Ghana’s entire performance at this historic Olympics described by the legendary sportswriter Peter Wilson of the London Daily Mirror as the Games where sports journalists became war correspondents.
At the Munich Olympics, Ghana for the third consecutive time competed in three disciplines: football, athletics and boxing just like Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968.
Once again it was boxing that gave us a medal, thanks to Prince Amartey’s bronze when he lost in the semi finals.
Fighting in the middleweight division, Prince Amartey started punching his way to stardom with an excellent victory over Espionisa of Mexico after drawing a bye in the first round.
With excellent footwork coupled with telling punches, Prince succeeded in disposing of the tough Mexican. His next victory, a bruising points decision over Poul Knutsen of Denmark, was enough to take him to the medal zone. Amartey opened each round with a flurry of punches which unsettled the Danish boxer.
Amartey’s semi- final encounter against Viertanan of Finland was extremely exciting. He scored repeatedly with left and right combinations which kept the Finn on the ropes throughout and it was a big surprise he was
Apart from Bantamweight, Joe Destimo who won one fight by outpouring Werner Schaefer of West Germany, the remaining four boxers were all eliminated in their first fights.
Joe Destimo lost his second fight to Indonesian southpaw Fenni Moniaga. Featherweight Joe Cofie was outpointed by
Cuban Orlano Palacois; Lightwelterweight Odartey Lawson suffered a third round technical loss to Isaka Dabong of Nigeria; The referee stopped the one sided fight; welterweight
Flash Emma was outpointed by Dambijar Bandi of Mongolia; Lightmiddleweight Ricky Barnor was outpointed by Cuban Roland Garbey.
The athletics contingent was made up of J. A. Addy, George Daniels, Sandy Osei Agyeman, Ohene
Karikari for sprints relay; Mike Ahey, Joshua Owusu long jump; Sam Bugri 400m; J.O Amoah, M.A Pomaney triple jump; Billy Fordjour,1,500m; Robert Hackman 3000 steeple chase; Alice Anum, Hannah Afriyie sprints and Juliana
Ohemeng, 800m,1,500m respectively.
Although Ghana did not win any medal in athletics, Long jumper Joshua Owusu and sprinter Alice Anum were quite outstanding.
Joshua placed a close 4th in the long jump final and narrowly missed what would have been Ghana’s first
Olympic medal in track and field. His leap of 8.01m in the long jump equalled the distance credited to the bronze medallist who made the jump once as against Joshua’s third attempt.
Alice Anum earned a first by qualifying for the finals in both the women’s 100m and 200m placing 6th and 7th respectively.
The football contingent comprised John Eshun (captain), Essel Mensah, Lante France, Akuetteh Armah,
Oliver Acquah, Edward Boye, Alex Mingle Joe Ghartey, Clifford Odame, Osei Kofi, Kwasi
Owusu, Ibrahim Sunday, Albert Essuman, Peter Lamptey, Abukari Gariba, Yaw Sam and Malik Jabir.
The team put up a disastrous performance, losing all three matches in their group. The Black Stars were
thrashed 4-0 by German Democratic Republic 4-0 in the first match, another 4-0 by Poland and 3-1 by Columbia.
Can you imagine that the first match was played a few hours after the grand opening ceremony at the giant capacity filled Olympic Stadium in Munich? In view of the political differences between the then East Germany and West Germany at the time, the largely West German crowd at the stadium rooted for Ghana but in vain.
Backed by this massive home support Ghana however attacked ferociously in the opening minutes but Kwasi Owusu and Abukari Gariba missed a couple of open chances that would have given some high spirits.
Then the East Germans hit back gamely and took the lead on the 19th minute through Centre forward Kreische who beat Essel Mensah in the posts with a powerful header. Kreische made it 2- 0 just before recess. Sparwasser increased the tally to 3-0 on 66 minutes and Kreische got his hat-trick a minute to full time.
Ghana: Essel Mensah Akuetteh Armah Oliver Acquah Alex Mingle, John Eshun (capt), Ibrahim Sunday, Osei Kofi, Peter Lamptey, Yaw Sam, Abukari Gariba, Kwasi Owusu and Malik Jabir.
In the second match played at Regensburg, about 200 km north of Munich, Poland whipped Ghana 4-0 in a real one sided match.
Inside left Mazczyk scored first in the 31st minute to give Poland a 1-0 half time lead. The Polish went on the rampage in the second half and speedy left winger Gadocha made it 2-0 in the 59th minute.
This goal completely took away everything in the Black Stars. Both the defence and attack crumbled Poland then scored two quick goals in the last five minutes through Centre forwards, Deysec and Gadocha to complete the rout.
Ghana: Essel Mensah, Edward Boye, Clifford Odame, Oliver Acquah, Alex Mingle, John Eshun, Joe Ghartey, Peter Lamptey, Yaw Sam, Abukari Gariba, Ibrahim Sunday and Malik Jabir.
Ghana returned to Munich and lost the third game 3-1 to unfancied Colombia.
After a thrilling goalless first half Colombia took the lead in the 56th minute through centre forward Jaime Moren.
Midfielder.Angel Torres made it 2-0 with a header in the 60th minute.
Ibrahim Sunday pulled one back for Ghana in the 79th minute but Louis Montaro made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute.
A number of sports lovers both young and
Old have expressed interest in my attempt to chronicle the history of Ghana sports especially when the nation is preparing to
host the 2023 Africa Games. It is my sincere recognition of the fact that it is a big honour to host such a prestigious continental sports festival and I wish every Ghanaian should in any small way possible, contribute to make it a success. This is my contribution.
Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.