The Best of Summer - Silver Medal: Munich 1972

My runner-up pick may seem controversial, but only at the first look. Of course, many people remember Munich 1972 first and foremost for the terrorist attack on Israel's athletes on September, 5th. But with all due respect to the victims of this barbaric act of violence, it is also true that these Games had lots of brilliant moments and helped to shape a positive picture of modern, post-war Germany all over the world. Had they not been overshadowed by terrorism, the 1972 Olympics would surely have gone down in history as a "Summer fairy tale" like the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

This process had started in the six years prior to the Games. In her attempt to exorcise the demons of Berlin's 1936 Nazi Games, Germany prepared for easy-going, delightful Games, which started with architecture. Munich's Olympic Park with its signature tent roof and the transparent, bright aura changed the face of the city and set the tone for the Games.

Kay Schiller and Christopher Young have portrayed this concept - largely directed by head of the organizing comitee, Willi Daume - in their great study. The world got a first impression at the opening ceremony, which was the first to feature show elements and music by Kurt Edelhagen that fitted the national teams parading into the stadium.

Fresh air was everywhere: in the architecture, the designs by Otl Aicher, the weather, the media. And the spirit spilled over to the audience. Many visitors from abroad were surprised to witness the fairness and competence of German crowds that they had not expected.

This is even more astonishing considering the fact that the Games took place at the height of the Cold War. The German Democratic Republic made its first fully accepted appearance at an Olympics, including her own flag and hymn. That happened in a country that had not started recognizing Eastern Germany until West German chancellor Willy Brandt had launched his new "Ostpolitik" a few years early.

Daume envisioned "competitive sports with a human face", a hidden acknowledgement that the doping problem was at least in sports circles already vibrant. We know today how the G.D.R. pushed her athletes to the limit and beyond, but since a widespread public discussion in 2012, it is clear that doping had become a problem in the west as well.

Besides pharmacy, the East-West-duells fascinated the audience, for example when West Germany defeated the Eastern girls in the women's 4 x 100 meter relay (picture: dpa). On a world wide scale, the triumph of the U.S.S.R. over the U.S. in the last seconds of the basketball final caused even more hype and controversy.

In contrast to this, there was no doubt about who the biggest star of Munich had been: U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz won seven gold medals, all with world records (picture: Time Magazine). His record stood for 36 years, before Michael Phelps won eight titles in Beijing.

Because of his Jewish ancestry, Spitz left Munich immediately after the terrorist attack. The days that shocked the world also haunted the greatest athlete of his time.

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