Worst Case Scenarios

Olympic Games in MunichIn preparation for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, organizers asked Dr. Georg Sieber, a police psychologist, to sketch out the possible scenarios that would jeopardize the safety of the Olympic Games and to prepare requisite security training. Sieber identified twenty-six highly detailed scenarios, which ran the gamut from hijacked jets, remote controlled bombs and smuggled arms. In his method, he extrapolated from his study of the most notorious terrorists of that era, including the IRA, PLO, ETA and the Baader-Meinhof gang.


His scenario Number 21 went something like this:


At 05:00, a dozen armed Palestinian terrorists will scale the six-foot high perimeter fence of the Olympic village and make their way to the building that houses the Israeli delegation. They will kill a few of the hostages they take and demand the release of prisoners from Israeli jails as well as a plane on which to escape.


At the time, this threat assessment scenario was dismissed as preposterous. As it happened, the attack and massacre of the Israeli athletes on September 5th occurred almost precisely as Dr. Sieber predicted. Was Sieber psychic? Ah, no. I would say that he was simply analyzing the situation from the point of view of the potential aggressors as part of a proactive defense strategy.


Many factors informed the security decision processes that resulted in this disaster and the failed rescue attempt that followed. Prominent among them was the German desire to obliterate the memory of Hitler’s 1936 Olympics. A pessimistic, doomsday prediction and the security in place to prevent it, would just drag down the mood they wanted to promote.


Especially when it comes to security, why does wishful thinking so often trump diabolical reality? Why do we shoot the messenger? It’s the enemy, the terrorists, suicide bombers, crazed and desperate dictators whose scenarios we have to deal with, whether we like it or not. We can’t successfully defend ourselves by picking and choosing those enemy tactics with which we are most comfortable.


  1. TK on March 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Who dismissed the scenario as preposterous?

    • securitygirl on March 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      Olympic Security Committee who hired him .

  2. Mike Sixsmith on March 13, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I trust that this gentleman, if still alive, is advising the London security team.

  3. Dave Mohn on March 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    It often seems to come down to appearance or cost of the security. Big money will be thrown at consultants but then the water gets muddied by companies thinking potential (or relational) sales to big corporate or government entities. Often the money is spent and still security plans fail. This gives the security industry a bad mark.

  4. JH on March 16, 2012 at 2:37 am

    There is a book titled “Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response” by Aaron Klien. The first part of the book details many of the security concerns and shortfalls which led to the massacre – good book.

  5. Praveen Abhayaratne on March 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    While role playing or red teaming is a great way to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, it also generates infinite areas to defend. It would interesting to know and consider if the 26 scenarios generated by Dr.Sieber has common areas of defense that could have been addressed without compromising (too much) the objectives of holding the Games itself.

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