Olympic nightmare

Bill Schmidt could look out his window and see the terrorists, masks covering their faces, guns held at attention in their hands.

He could watch on television as the Palestines took about a dozen Israeli athletes hostage in Munich, Germany.

Then, he heard the chilling commentary from ABC sportscaster Jim McKay: ``They're gone, all gone.''

It was one of the worst tragedies in world sports, and Schmidt was no more than 100 yards away, watching it unfold from the American compound for athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games.

``It was surreal.'' Schmidt said.

At the time, Schmidt was living a dream. Schmidt had qualified for the 1972 Summer Games in the javelin, though his first two favorite sports were baseball and football. His father was born in Germany. His last time is as common in Germany as Smith is in the United States.

``It was like going home,'' Schmidt said. ``They (Germans) adopted me.''

After barely making it through qualifying, Schmidt won a bronze medal – the only U.S. Olympic medalist in the javelin in the past 54 years.

Then came the terrorist attack.

``They warned us to stay off the balcony,'' Schmidt said of the U.S. living quarters about 100 yards away. ``But you couldn't help but look and ponder what was going on and what had happened. I don't believe there was any point in time where we felt insecure or feared for our lives. Our thoughts were on the athletes being held hostage.''

The athletes who were eventually murdered.

``Then, it was, `What's going to happen next? Are the Games going to be canceled?''' Schmidt said. ``Everything else you did or accomplished or were about to attempt was miniscule compared to what really went on in the massacre.''

Schmidt said one of the downfalls for security at Munich was that German TV showed practically everything.

``If they (security guards) were going to rush the compound or a room, German TV had that on,'' Schmidt said. ``We could see it on TV. Coincidentally, so could the people holding the hostages.''

Schmidt said those words from McKay still ring in his ears.

``I still get goose bumps,'' said Schmidt, a Knoxville resident who trained for two Olympic Games in Knoxville while an assistant to former UT men's track coach Stan Huntsman.

Schmidt said he felt obligated to see the movie, ``Munich.'' It's not about the Munich Games but about the individuals hired to track down the terrorists.

``It was impactful, compelling and it made me relieve the whole situation,'' Schmidt said. ``I think it was well done. I felt as if it had happened yesterday.''

After winning an improbable medal in 1972, Schmidt failed to make the 1976 team after he finished fifth in qualifying. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Games, denying Schmidt a chance to make another Olympic team.

Schmidt, a former executive with Gatorade who now runs a marketing business called Pegasus, is a huge fan of the Olympics.

``I'm hooked on anything having to do with the Olympics,'' Schmidt said. ``That goes back to growing up in a coal mining area of Pennsylvania and thinking about this being a lifelong dream.''

He said there is nothing like competing in the spotlight of the Olympics.

``You've heard people talk about the pressure,'' Schmidt said, ``but unless you've experienced it, you have no idea. You get in that arena, whether it's a team sport or individual sport, once they label it Olympic Games, things happen.

``Some of them are not good, but it's all in your head and it's the greatest test you'll ever want to be under from a pressure standpoint.''

Schmidt said the Winter Games have lost some popular, pointing out American Idol one night had 26 million viewers to 16 million watching the Torino Games.

* Schmidt served as Michael Jordan's manager for some 10 years, having signed Jordan to a lengthy contract with Gatorade.

``We were very close,'' Schmidt said. ``I could say things to Michael his agent couldn't. I had him take media training.''

Schmidt advised Jordan not to wear sunglasses to interviews.

``He said, `Well, I just don't want them to see my emotions.' I said, `That's exactly it. People think you're trying to hide or you've got something to hide. Take the glasses off.'''

* Schmidt likes the change in the figure skating scoring – having 12 judges and randomly picking nine to determine the points. In the past, block voting led to some controversial – and questionable – decisions.

``For once, they got caught,'' Schmidt said of the Salt Lake City Games. ``Fortunately, I was in an event where it was easy (to determine the winner). Whoever throws the farthest wins.''

* Schmidt acknowledged you'll never have another Miracle on Ice story in which college hockey players beat professionals in 1980.

``Does it take away some of that luster and anticipation and spontaneity? Absolutely. I personally prefer to watch college sports more than pros. Those guys are getting paid a lot of money and collegians are out there doing it because they love the game. It (allowing pros in the Olympics) did take a lot away from it in my mind.''

* Schmidt said splitting the Summer and Winter Games has helped both, rather than have each during the same year.

``It's benefits the Winter Games,'' he said. ``You have to understand, the Summer Games have over 12,000-15,000 athletes. The Winter Games have 2,500. The Summer Games have 225 nations, the Winter Games 80. That's not depleting importance of the Winter Games, but it's a smaller event. The strategy of IOC was pretty right on. They were able to generate additional revenue (by splitting the Games). It's not twice the revenue, but maybe 50-60 percent more.''

NBA has the Olympics through 2012. The initial deal was $3.5 billion from 2000-08. It was renegotiated in 2003 to for through 2012 for another $2.5 billion.

``That's NBA's marquee property,'' Schmidt said.

The expense for hosting the Olympics has risen considerably because of the need for additional security. Schmidt said the City of Los Angeles bid for the 1984 Games – with no help from California or the United State. The L.A. Games turned a profit of $225 million, Schmidt said.

Now, security is 30-40 percent of the budget.


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