Documenting Terror And Triumph
In 1972, Greenspan was working the summer games in Munich as a radio reporter for the National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC). He was thus a witness to one of the most shocking terrorist attacks of the twentieth century—the kidnapping and murder of the entire nine-member Israeli Olympic team (and their two coaches) by a faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization known as Black September. A memorial service was held the day after the event, which was dubbed the "Munich Massacre." After that, the games went on as scheduled. The decision to continue was controversial, but it was intended to demonstrate that terrorism had no place in the peaceful realm of athletic competition. Years later, Greenspan produced a ninety-minute documentary, The 1972 Munich Olympic Games: Bud Greenspan Remembers, which included archival footage and the producer's on-the-spot radio reports. While focusing on the tragedy of Munich, however, the film also highlighted some of the remarkable performances of those games, including Mark Spitz's domination of the swimming events, and the debut of gymnastics gamine Olga Korbut. The film was broadcast on the Showtime network on September 5, 2002, thirty years to the day after the Munich Massacre. "I talked to a lot of the relatives and friends of the athletes and that made it seem even more like yesterday," Greenspan said in a CBS television interview.
Many of Greenspan's early films were produced by both him and his wife, the late Constance Anne ("Cappy") Petrash; the filmmaker's Cappy Productions is named in her honor. The couple notably created a documentary following the Ethiopian runners who swept the Olympic marathon in 1960, 1964, and 1968. The resulting film was expanded into The Olympiad, a 1980 series that aired in more than eighty countries.
In 1984, the year after Cappy's death, Greenspan was named to his first official post as documentarian of the Olympic summer games in Los Angeles. The distinction between his work and that of independent producers, he explained in a Sports Travel article, is that he submitted to "a bidding process within the host country for the rights to document the Games." The host country "makes the decision" who and what gets filmed. The IOC, he added, asked that Greenspan portray the games in a positive sense. "If something happens contrary to that it won't be ignored, but it won't be exploited," he elaborated.