Several people are walking on the 1972 Olympic site in Munich

Munich in the 70s

Sex, drugs and Olympic Games

New, new, new – that was ringing out across Munich in the 1970s. All sorts of construction for the city’s upcoming Olympic Games was taking place, at the same time that the sound of disco was being invented in a recording studio beside Arabellapark.

You could say the 1970s saw Munich come of age, as visitors from all over the world flocked to the Bavarian capital for the 1972 Olympic Games. Meanwhile, in a recording studio near Arabellapark, Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer were inventing disco; a sound the city became famous for. And then of course the sexual revolution was in full swing, as from the protests of 1968 emerged the rise of the nudist movement in 1970 – even the New York Times reported on the naked people and hippies in the Englischer Garten.

 

The Rolling Stones and the sound of disco

Once the light started to fade around the Monopteros temple, those hippies and free spirits would leave the park and swarm onto the streets, often heading for the legendary Piper Club on Kurfürstenplatz in Schwabing – a venue which remained open for just three years before being shut down by the KVR (Department of Public Order). Possibly on account of the drugs... After all, the pub was unofficially dubbed the “Joint” because of rumours that you could buy pretty much anything you wanted at the door and then sleep it off on the mattresses at the rear of the club.

No tour of Schwabing in the 1970s would be complete without a visit to Woodstock and Café Europa, before a stop at Tiffany (Leopoldstrasse 69) – which was, incidentally, the Rolling Stones’ favourite club to frequent whenever they were in Munich. It was also where iconic German model and revolutionary Uschi Obermaier met Mick Jagger, who she later accompanied on tour and is thought to have been involved with. For after-hours action, people could head to the Pimpernel on Müllerstrasse – still one of the top spots for tireless revellers today.

No tour of Schwabing in the 1970s would be complete without a visit to Woodstock to Tiffany – which was, incidentally, the Rolling Stones’ favourite club. It was also where iconic German model and revolutionary Uschi Obermaier met Mick Jagger.

The Rolling Stones weren’t just here to party though: they also recorded two albums in the then world–famous Musicland Studios beside Arabellapark. The studio was opened in the early 1970s by Giorgio Moroder, who used it to launch the sound of disco with singer Donna Summer. When the pair released the song “Love to Love You, Baby” in 1976, it immediately rocketed to Number 2 in the US charts – an extraordinary success that led to many famous artists wanting to work with Giorgio Moroder in the 1970s, including Deep Purple, Iggy Pop, Led Zeppelin and Elton John.

Another new arrival, and probably unique across the whole world at that time, was the Yellow Submarine club (194 Leopoldstrasse). Not only did this Schwabing nightclub look like a submarine on the inside, patrons were also actually underwater – sort of. The view out of its circular portholes was of 30 live sharks swimming around in the giant 600,000-litre pool that the venue stood within.

 

Concrete and Brutalism: the architecture of the 70s

Next to it was the brand new Schwabylon shopping and leisure centre, constructed in 1973. There was no other building like it in Munich at that time, but the locals never really warmed to it. The revolutionary thing about it was the fact that it contained not just offices, apartments and restaurants, but also an arcade, a cinema, swimming pool, a spa and even an ice rink, all spread across multiple floors. Designed by architect Justus Dahinden, the structure cost 160 million Deutschmark – which unfortunately proved a poor investment as it ended up deserted after just 14 months.

One of the biggest urban development advances that Munich owes to the Olympic Games was the construction of the U-Bahn underground and S-Bahn urban rail systems. The line between Kieferngarten and Goetheplatz opened in October 1971, and was followed by the rail link between Münchner Freiheit and the Olympiazentrum (Olympic Centre) one year later. Today Munich’s underground rail network consists of more than 100 kilometres of track, serving some 96 stations all over the city. 

Anyone wishing to travel back in time now need only head to the 85-hectare Olympiapark (Olympic Park), everything looks the same as it did in the seventies: the Olympic Village, the swimming pool and the Olympiastadion.

Other city facilities added to benefit those attending the Olympic Games included the redesigned pedestrian zone on Kaufingerstrasse (1972), the underground area at Stachus square (1970) and the BMW museum (1973). Anyone wishing to travel back in time now need only head to the 85-hectare Olympiapark (Olympic Park), where everything looks the same as it did in the seventies – including the Olympic Village, which still stands as a reminder of the terrible terrorist attack that took place there. The “Einschnitt” (Incision) memorial enables visitors to find out more about the tragic events that unfolded. A visit to the park also offers an opportunity to admire the famous tented roof, the swimming pool and the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium).

The 18-floor Pharao-Haus on Fritz-Meyer-Weg in Oberföhring is a classic Brutalist building which is still standing today. The notion of 70s architecture inevitably conjures up an image of the high-rise buildings that sprang up during the decade. Back then, Neuperlach was one of the largest and most important districts of Munich. Finished during the 1970s, it provided living space for 60,000 people and also boasted various shopping and leisure facilities. Construction company Neue Heimat, which oversaw the building of many housing developments all over Germany at the time, was also involved in the preparations for the Olympics, helping to construct accommodation for 4,000 journalists within a very short time.

 

1972 Summer Olympics

Finally the long-awaited Games opened, and from 26 August to 11 September 1972 the city welcomed guests from all over the world after years of preparation. Over 7,100 athletes from 122 teams participated in the 1972 Olympic Summer Games – a record at the time! Most of the competitions took place on the Olympiagelände (Olympic campus) or at locations on the outskirts of Munich such as the regatta course in Oberschleißheim. Nearby cities such as Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ingolstadt, Regensburg and Passau were also important venues during the Games.

The visual imagery designed for the Olympics that year is still recognised far beyond the city limits. The distinctively 70s icon designs were created by Otl Aicher, and took the form of simple pictograms which were accessible and understandable to all. Aicher was also behind the creation of Olympic Waldi, the first-ever official Summer Olympics mascot. This cute little dachshund popped up everywhere during the Games – and could also be purchased in toy, poster or puzzle form.

 

Here’s where to go if you want to experience a taste of the 70s in Munich today:

 

 

Text: Anja Schauberger; Photos: Stadtarchiv München (Munich city archive)

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