There is a compelling school of thought which holds that sport is inherently tied to the realities of everyday life, a vital component but not central to the more serious facets of the human condition.
That misconception was savagely erased with the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes – and the death of a policeman – during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Suddenly and terrifyingly, sport had been dragged into the front line.
The absence of armed personnel had worried Israeli delegation head Shmuel Lalkin even before his team arrived in Munich. In later interviews with journalists Serge Groussard and Aaron Klein, Lalkin said that he had also expressed concern with the relevant authorities about his team’s lodgings, according to Wikipedia.
The team was housed in an isolated part of the Olympic Village, on the ground floor of a small building close to a gate, which Lalkin felt made his team particularly vulnerable to an assault.
The West German authorities apparently assured Lalkin that extra security would be provided to look after the Israeli team, but Lalkin doubts that these additional measures were ever taken.
The myth that sport and the rest of life somehow existed on different planes were lost in that blood-soaked tragedy triggered by the Black September movement.
The suicide bomb which spewed a deadly hail of nuts and bolts across a lobby at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 and injuring 59 others at a pop concert, has greatly magnified the vulnerability of leisure events and heightened security awareness at sporting occasions.
Major sports venues laid urgent plans to beef up security, including today’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley, Manchester United’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm went ahead on Wednesday under tight security, and English Premier League champions Chelsea cancelled plans for an open air bus ride around London to celebrate their championship victory.
The pity of all this is that, in the words of Madiba “sport has the ability to unite nations”.
It also has the priceless facility to uplift us all, to enable the human race to transcend the workday world through the sublime talents of the stars. It is this, more than anything, we have to protect.