Ghosts of Munich Haunt Sochi Olympics in Wake of Russia Bombings

The Israeli who warned about lax security in 1972, and later vowed that Israel would be back, expects Sochi to come off safely, despite the explosions in Volgograd

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Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

A Russian police officer and a police dog patrol a street in Sochi, Russia, on Dec. 30, 2013

The two bombs that killed at least 31 people in the Russian city of Volgograd on Sunday and Monday confirmed an uncomfortable truth for the organizers of the 22nd Winter Games, which will open in six weeks: no Olympics in history has faced such a clear threat of terrorist attacks. In preparation, Russia has established a special security zone in Sochi that will run 60 miles along the coast of the Black Sea and 25 miles inland. Entrance will be restricted to residents, workers and ticket holders, all of whom will have been screened in advance. Drones will patrol the sky, speedboats the sea, and Russian troops the surrounding mountains.

(MORESecond Deadly Blast Hits Southern Russian City)

The extraordinary measures are intended to protect all visitors to the Games. But one national team — the Israeli team — is watched with particular care. Each member of the small team has undergone “a very extensive security briefing, so they know exactly what to do and what not to do,” says Vladimir Shklar, the vice president of Israel’s Olympic Committee, who will head his country’s delegation to Sochi. The instruction is standard for Israeli athletes who compete abroad. (Israel is sending only five athletes and two coaches to Sochi. The modest number has less to do with any security concerns than the fact that the Mediterranean nation is no winter-sports powerhouse.)

Israel has protected its Olympic athletes since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where, in the predawn hours of Sept. 5, eight Palestinian militants overran the Israeli quarters in the lightly guarded Olympic Village, beginning a drama that ended with 11 Israeli athletes dead and started a new era of precaution and vigilance encasing events that reliably draw the world’s attention. Five of the eight assailants were killed on the tarmac; the three survivors were later released by West Germany.

(MORE: Is Sochi Safe Enough for the Olympics?)

“Listen, the security situation of Munich was a bad one,” recalls Shmuel Lalkin, head of Israel’s delegation to the Munich Games. Lalkin visited the site before the 1972 Games began and realized it posed a security threat to his team. His warnings to both the German hosts and Israeli officials went unheeded, however, and he awoke to gunfire and watched the hostage situation unfold throughout the day. The next day he presided over the memorial service.

“I stood in the Olympic Stadium and said we will come back,” Lalkin, now retired, tells TIME. “Now, this is one of the Games we come back to.”

(MORE: Thanks, Putin, but No Thanks: Few Are Grateful for Russia’s Pre-Olympic Amnesty)

Sochi sits at the edge of the North Caucasus, where Islamist militants are trying to establish an emirate in an area that comprises a patchwork of Muslim territories that include Chechnya and Dagestan. The attacks in Volgograd — a suicide bombing at a railway station on Sunday and another one on a crowded bus on Monday morning — occurred several hundred miles north of both Sochi and the militants’ home area. No group has taken responsibility for either blast, but the Chechen rebel leader Dukov Umarov in July urged his fighters to “do their utmost to derail” the $52 billion Sochi Games, which he described as “Satanic dances on the graves of our ancestors.” The reference was to Circassians, a Turkic Muslim people who succumbed to Russian conquest in the 19th century and were later expelled from the area.

“We have to remember that the terror attacks in Russia are because of internal tension between the Caucasus republics and Russia. It has nothing to do with Israel and the Jews,” says Shklar. “But of course we have to remember, wherever we are, we attract fire.”

Shklar is impressed by the precautions the government of President Vladmir Putin has taken. “We trust the Russian government. It’s making a great effort to secure the place. I was there in [London 2012] Summer Games, and it was very, very difficult to get in and out.”

(MORE: How to Get to Sochi)

Lalkin, the veteran of 1972, agrees. “The problem in Munich is no one took care of our team in the village,” he says, “not the Germans and not the Israelis.”

Shklar says the athletes know how much has changed. “Look,” he says, “the Munich events always accompany Israeli athletes. We cannot escape it. But that doesn’t mean we fear because of it.”

With reporting by Yonit Farago and Aaron J. Klein / Tel Aviv

32 comments
atsjustice
atsjustice

Please stand corrected from the comments of our people articulated below. We are a remarkable people and we had a extraordinarily nation. You should write of us and the tragedy and struggles we endured and continue to endure. There is only one God (SWT).

We welcome you to meet and speak with us.

ASLAN T. SOOBZOKOV, Esquire

Paterson, New Jersey

RogerT
RogerT

And to think they didn't go for Istanbul in 2020 for security reasons due to protests, but they gave it to Russia for this year in one of their Islamic rebel-riddled republics after Beslan and all that.....yeah, I wonder who paid who off for this one.  Oh Olympics, how laughable you have become!

CircassianPride
CircassianPride

Circassians not a turkic people!!!! please write  article correctly!!

Sosriqwe
Sosriqwe

The Circassians are not "Turkic Muslim people". They are rather a Northwest Caucasian nation, and speak the Circassian language, which is non-Turkic, but belongs to the Northwest Caucasian language family, which is not affiliated to any other language group, except perhaps Northeast Caucasian. It is unfortunate that such basic mistakes are made in such a prestigious media outlet. Western media should shed more light on the Circassians, since the Sochi Olympic Games will be held on historical Circassian lands. For more on the Circassians, refer to the books "The Circassians: A Handbook" [New York, London: Routledge, 2001], and "Circassian Culture and Folklore" [London: Bennett and Bloom, 2010], both by A. Jaimoukha, a well-known expert on Circassian issues.

JilleeJohn
JilleeJohn

Leave it to "Time" to low ball and denigrate this as "ghosts of Munich."  Dimwits.  Two totally different times, two totally different terrorist groups, two unconnected events, but "Time" is so bottom-of-the-barrel, this is all they can come up with.

http://garciniacambogiaproreviews.com/

Palinista
Palinista

Was Obama even an American at the time of Munich?

Airborne869
Airborne869

All Muslims are the scourge of the earth...!

randolphnurina
randolphnurina

Leave it to "Time" to low ball and denigrate this as "ghosts of Munich."  Dimwits.  Two totally different times, two totally different terrorist groups, two unconnected events, but "Time" is so bottom-of-the-barrel, this is all they can come up with.  "Time" still doesn't even acknowledge Hillary Clinton's and Obama's terrorist denials in Benghazi, so why would one read this?   Look, separatist muslim groups who hate Russia are responsible for this.  It has NOTHING to do with the Middle East or Jews.  I linked to this silly story from Drudge.  Yes!  That's right!  Drudge!  Where previously published journalism is held up to scrutiny.  Liberals HATE Drudge because he exposes how dopey their stories really are.

jnsesq
jnsesq

The ugly truth is that as long as Islam is a world force there will be ever more ghosts of Munich. Read the Koran -- they're merely doing their duty and that duty is to force non-believers to submit, convert or die. There is no option (d) None of the above.

trustandobey
trustandobey

eight Palestinian militants overran the Israeli quarters in the lightly guarded Olympic Village, beginning a drama that would end with 11 Israeli athletes dead


Five of the eight assailants were killed on the tarmac; the three survivors were later released by West Germany.



steve0210
steve0210

The Russians will have better than the US at the '96 Atlanta games.

WilliamDuane
WilliamDuane

With the security zone and all the stepped up measure its seems great. I saw a segment on Pirate Ship . com about this, great debate.

Misty1CA
Misty1CA

Israel knows what it is doing, unlike the USA.  No one can beleive anything from the WH. Everything is based on lies. No country trusts us anymore. They certainly don't fear us. Obama asking Putin if Putin needs our help is an oxymoron.  We need to get rid of Obama to make the world a safer place. He is the most dividing president in American history.  If you were comparing him to ancient Kings, Calugia comes to mind.

YouDontKnowMe
YouDontKnowMe

@TimothyDNaegele Yes, it's just like Hitler's Olympics in Berlin. Really? Are they committing genocide against Jews? You don't have a tin foil hat on in your pic...trying to look somewhat normal, are you? 

YouDontKnowMe
YouDontKnowMe

@Palinista No, he wasn't. Nor is he now. Is that what you wanted to hear? Hahaha!

kon-tiki
kon-tiki

Koran versus 9:29.

"Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled."

brenro12
brenro12

@Misty1CACaligula too.
Unless you mean Darth Calugia. Or perhaps you really don't have a clue

Misty1CA
Misty1CA

I have more of a clue than you do breno12. Do you even know who Calugia was? Thought not. Google will tell you.

NishiHundan1
NishiHundan1

@Misty1CA  You're a pathetic loser. That was back in Dec 2013. It's March 2014 now and you're still a pathetic loser.

MarcusStone
MarcusStone

@Misty1CA Your abject ignorance is only exceeded by your sheer stupidity.  BTW that photo of you is hideous. 

Misty1CA
Misty1CA

Thats right . :-)  Much like the present POTUS. .

JamesCrowley
JamesCrowley

@Misty1CA Caligula nominated his horse to the Roman Senate. He was assassinated in 41 A.D. Malcolm McDowell played him in the movie.

Misty1CA
Misty1CA

Yes breno12. The bloody monster emperoror of Rome who thought he was a God. Grow up. I will respond again when you have something to say.

brenro12
brenro12

@Misty1CAAre you referring to Caligula? The hole your digging is getting deeper.