In 1972, the city of Munich hosted the Summer Olympics. That year's games hasn't been remembered for the races won or the medals awarded, it’s remembered because of the Munich Massacre — the kidnapping and murder of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team by the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September.
Bill Temko was an 18-year-old who went to the Olympics on a lark and ended up working as a volunteer with ABC News.
When the hostage situation broke out, Temko snuck into the Olympic Village dorms to get some of the closest photographs of the terrorists on record. Temko is now a lawyer who resides in Southern California.
On why he was in Munich:
“A friend of mine was a track coach and he had a couple of his runners on the Olympic team and he had a deal to write some articles for Ebony and Jet magazine. And he asked me if I would go and take photos for the articles.”
On how he got into the Olympic Village:
“My friend the track coach gave me a USA track suit. And he said ‘I think this will work, you can sort of fake your way into the Olympic Village’ and for the first week of the Olympics that’s precisely what I did...I’d put my tracksuit on...and I would literally jog up to the security gate, pause and pat a young child on the head, maybe sign a fake autograph and start jogging through.”
On ABC’s decision to send him into Olympic Village to photograph the hostages:
“The Germans in their own inimitable fashion had decided that the solution was to close down the Olympic Village. So all of the ABC sports people were congregated and were saying ‘how are we gonna do this? We can’t even get into the Olympic Village.’ And I sheepishly raised my hand and said ‘I think I can get us into the Olympic Village.’
On what he and ABC partner John Wilcox did after entering the Village:
“We decided it would be great if we could get closer to the hostages. And so Wilcox and I basically did the same thing but we went past the security guards and snuck into the athlete dormitory that was facing the dormitory that was where the hostages were being held.”
On what he could see from his window which was 50 feet from the hostages:
“Initially we could even see through the windows of the dormitory. You could see the hostages sitting on the couch and you could see that they were somehow tied up. Shortly they decided they would close the curtains. And they had sort of these gauze white curtains.”
On how he felt covering the hostage situation:
“It was terrifying. But I was a naive 18-year-old kid so I’m not sure I had any comprehension of what I was getting myself into.”
On the historic nature of the terrorism at the Munich Olympics:
“This was a unique moment I think in terms of both news coverage and sports. It was before the internet, obviously. It was before CNN. It was before ESPN. So it really was, I think, the first time that Americans watched a news event like this unfolding in real time. It really was the end of innocence in sports.”