50 years later, the German heroes and heroines of the 1972 Munich Summer Games look back on the great sporting year with mixed feelings.

It was the “serene games” that are eternally associated with terror. Fifty years ago, the youth of the world came together in Munich to compete peacefully before an assassination attempt on Israeli athletes snapped the Olympic movement out of its summer dream. At the German Sport and Olympia Museum in Cologne, some of the heroes and heroines of the past remembered the 1972 world event.

Among them were Olympic high jump champion Ulrike Nasse-Meyfarth, silver medallist swimmer Klaus Steinbach and Heide Ecker-Rosendahl, the German face of the Games with two gold and one silver medal in athletics.

“The assassination weighed on all of us and still weighs on our memories today,” said Steinbach, then 18 years old and later a top official in German sport. “For me it was like: Cheering sky-high and saddened to death,” recounted Nasse-Meyfarth, who had won gold by complete surprise at the age of 16 and woke up a day later with the “fear” of the terrorists in the Olympic village.

Even today, the legendary phrase of the then IOC President Avery Brundage – “The Games must go on!”  – was the only correct reaction for Ecker-Rosendahl: “We couldn’t let ourselves be beaten down, it was important that the Games went on.” For her with a golden ending: after the triumph in the long jump and the narrow defeat in the pentathlon, she led the 4×100 m relay team to victory.

The event in the museum in Cologne’s Zollhafen harbour under the title “50 Years of Munich ’72 – A Reminiscence from the Perspective of North Rhine-Westphalia”, organised by the state, the State Sports Association and the NRW Sports Foundation, was the prelude to a series of events in the anniversary year 2022. The 20th Summer Games had opened on 26 August 1972, the assassination attempt by Palestinian terrorists on 5 September still shapes the view of the first world event on German soil after the Second World War.