Kay Schiller and Christopher Young

The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany

University of California Press 2010

New Books in European StudiesNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books in Terrorism and Organized CrimeNew Books Network September 26, 2011 Bruce Berglund

This past summer Germany hosted the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 32 matches drew more than 800,000 fans, while the total number of...

This past summer Germany hosted the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 32 matches drew more than 800,000 fans, while the total number of foreign tourists visiting Germany increased by nine per cent over the previous summer. The German government’s commissioner for tourism proudly declared that the success of the Women’s World Cup “strengthened the global image of Germany as a cosmopolitan and family-friendly travel destination with excellent infrastructure,” making the country the “world champion of hospitality.”

As the statement shows, German officials are highly conscious of their nation’s “brand,” and the effectiveness of that brand in drawing tourists. The same can be said of other nations that host major international sporting events. Think of the attention to the “new South Africa” in 2010 or the “new China” in 2008. Organizers of these events do not simply plan a schedule of competitions; they seek to present an attractive image of their country to visitors at the stadiums and viewers watching on television.

This concern with national image was at the center of planning for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. When the organizers made their bid to host the games, only two decades had passed since the end of the Nazi state. Germany still had a big image problem, something that the planners hoped to remedy with the Munich games. Kay Schiller and Christopher Young examine this effort to re-craft the German brand in The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany (University of California Press, 2010), named the best book for 2011 by both the British and North American societies for sports history. As Kay and Chris discuss, the West German planners were alert to everything from the graphic design of the venue posters to the legacies of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The aim was to create a Gesamtkunstwerk–a complete work of art–that would depict their country as modern, welcoming, and non-ideological. And in Kay and Chris’ judgment, they were largely successful: the Munich games were a model of planning and executing a major international event.

But then came the fifth of September.

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