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How do you tell this story in the exhibition?

MK: ‘There is an image of the attack that sums everything up and which has a central place in the exhibition. It is a photo of a conversation that took place outside the door of the apartment where Black September was holding the Israeli team hostage. We see Anneliese Graes, a female police officer, speaking with Issa, the Black September spokesman. The police delegate represents the laidback ideals of the organisers of the Olympics: a woman, dressed in the light blue of Aicher’s colour scheme. Opposite her is a man with a blacked-up face: an outsider who has infiltrated the “open and inclusive” world of the Olympic terrain.’

‘In the exhibition, spatially designed by Bart Guldemond, we explore in depth the elements that made up the visual identity of the Munich Olympics. For example, in addition to the colour scheme, Aicher was also responsible for the famous pictograms that went on to be used in later editions of the games. With help from Frei Otto, the architecture firm Behnisch & Partner designed an enormous glass roof for the architecture imbedded in the landscape. That landscape was designed by landscape architect Günter Grzimek. His design was very open: visitors were allowed to move freely across the terrain. People were invited to create their own paths, a system that was obviously completely designed.’

Were the designs for the 1972 Olympics typical of the 1970s and an example of what design was capable of at that moment in time?

MK: ‘In fact I think it marked the end of an era.’

DB: ‘Of modernist design. It was modernist in its rationality and extremism.’

MK: ‘You could say that their enormous faith in the power of design was naïve, but it also expressed great beauty, which is in stark contrast to how these sorts of events are designed today. When the police psychologist advised them to make the fences higher and to top them with barbed wire, the organisers refused. They believed firmly in the pacifying effect of their open and inclusive strategy. The police didn’t carry weapons and were kitted out in light-blue uniforms. They were trained to respond to possible threats in a non-aggressive manner and to avoid conflicts.’

DB: ‘The security dog was a dachshund, which was also the mascot for the games.’ 

The exhibition’s subtitle is The Design of a Democratic Body. How does this relate to the story of Munich 1972?

DB: ‘Both parties were looking for a form of democracy. And both sides used abstraction. For me as a designer, this is nicely represented by the pictograms that Aicher designed to represent the different Olympic sports equally within a system. Equality is one of the core values of the Olympics. These pictograms were abstracted images of the body. We recognise ourselves in them, but also others.’

‘Issa, the spokesman for Black September, painted his face black. For me, there is a connection between his blacked-up face and the pictogram. He gave up his identity for a higher goal. But in the end we are all looking for the hero of the story. We look to individuals, to the Aichers and the Issas, and to the gold medal-winning athletes.

MK: In 1974 Yasser Arafat gave an address to the United Nations. Despite the dramatic end to the attack, it had succeeded in gaining attention for the Palestinian cause.

Interview by Lotte Haagsma

Marten Kuijpers
Isa Fahrenholz, Merav Kaddar
Bart Guldemond
David Bennewith, Bram van den Berg

This project is part of the programme track Annual themes and the folder Olympic Games.