Athletes and organizers alike were disturbed by recent reports of a bomb plot targeting the Sochi Olympics. An Islamic militant group from Russia’s North Caucasus region is allegedly plotting to strike the Olympics. The group, known as Vilayat Dagestan, has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings Volgograd. The terrorist threat means that security will need to be stepped up for the upcoming games.
Sadly, the modern Olympics have frequently been the target for violence and terrorist plots. While the Olympics are often a tool for international friendship and cooperation, tragedy has often overshadowed athletic victories at the games.
One of the darkest chapters in Olympic history was the massacre at the Munch Olympic in 1972. The Palestinian group Black September took 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, including several weightlifters, wrestlers, and coaches. After a failed rescue attempt, the ensuing violence resulted in a total of 17 deaths, including the Israeli athletes, their coaches, five Black September members, and a German police officer. The massacre and its aftermath were dramatized in the 2005 film “Munich,” directed by Steven Spielberg.
During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, an American terrorist named Eric Robert Rudolph was responsible for a blast that went off in Centennial Olympic Park. Two people were killed, and over a hundred more people were injured. The death toll could have been much higher had a security guard not noticed the suspicious package containing the bomb and started to move people off to a safe distance.
Not all violence at the Olympics has been premeditated. Way back in 1924, the Olympic rugby union match between America and France marred by a violent outburst from the spectators. After one of the French players was knocked unconscious, the French spectators began to throw bottles and rocks at the American players. Fights broke out in the stands, and the Americans had to be placed under police protection for their own safety.
Sometimes, even just the chance at qualifying for the Olympics can cause violence to break out. In 1964, a brutal riot broke out in Peru months before the Tokyo Summer Olympics. The riot occurred after Peru and Argentina’s final qualifying game for the Olympics. When one of Peru’s goals was annulled, the crowd rioted. The police were forced to shoot tear gas into the crowd, resulting in a stampede. In their panic to escape the gas, many people were crushed to death or suffocated. All told, the riot took over 300 lives.