I.O.C.’s Impromptu Munich Remembrance for Israeli Athletes Killed in Munich Draws Criticism


olympic-munich-silenceThe International Olympic Committee has been clear in its rejection of an opening ceremony remembrance for the 11 Israeli athletes and a West German police officer murdered at the 1972 Munich Games. There has been an effort, supported by leaders like President Obama, for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony of the London Games on Friday to commemorate the victims on the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attack.

The I.O.C., through its president, Jacques Rogge, said a formal commemoration is not appropriate at this time, and has declined to observe a moment of silence. Instead, the I.O.C. plans a formal commemoration Sept. 5, the date that eight terrorists, dressed as athletes, slipped into the Munich Olympic Village and changed the 1972 Games.

The Palestinian terrorists, part of a group called Black September, targeted the Israeli delegation, killing an athlete in the village and taking nine hostage. Their demands were for the release of 234 Palestinian inmates from Israeli prisons and some Red Army faction members from German prisons, or they would murder an athlete every hour. Israel rejected the demands; the terrorists killed another hostage, then demanded to fly to Egypt. A rescue effort was attempted at the airport, leaving carnage in its wake: five terrorists, nine athletes and a German policeman were killed. Three terrorists were captured at the airport.

“We are going to pay homage to the athletes as we always have done in the past and will do in the future,” Rogge said, according to The Daily Mail. “We will also be present on the exact day of the killings, Sept. 5, at the military airport of Fürstenfeldbruck, where the killings actually happened. We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident.”

But on Monday Rogge, along with the London Olympic Organizing Committee chairman, Sebastian Coe, Mayor Boris Johnson of London and other British government and I.O.C. officials, held a moment of silence at the Olympic athletes’ village.

Rogge’s remarks, which he later said were off the cuff, were the first time the Munich dead were remembered at an Olympic athletes’ village.

“I would like to start today’s ceremony by honoring the memory of 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals and have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village,” Rogge said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision. They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep that spirit alive and to remember them.”

Rogge said that his comments do not signal a change in the I.O.C.’s position on a moment of silence at the opening ceremony.

“The intention was not to calm anyone,” Rogge said.

The moment of silence at the village has not stopped the drive for a larger remembrance.

Ilana Romano, the widow of a slain Israeli athlete, remains upset with Rogge. Romano, along with other family members of the murdered athletes, have been spearheading the campaign for the formal moment of silence.

“He is trying to do the bare minimum,” Romano told The Post on Monday. “This is shameful. …He tried to pull the rug from under our feet, but we still have a few things to say.”

Another widow, Ankie Spitzer, is also unhappy.

“This is not the right solution, to hold some ceremony in front of 30 or 40 people,” Spitzer told The Post. “We asked for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony, not for someone to mumble something in front of a few dozen people.”

Jennifer Lipman, in an opinion reaction piece on the Jewish Chronicle Online, also criticized Rogge and the I.O.C. on Monday for their unwillingness to do more to honor the fallen from Munich.

“If the I.O.C. can close half the roads in London, force Saudi Arabia to field female athletes, or threaten greasy spoons for daring to use the Olympic logo, then they can withstand complaints from nations – Arab or otherwise – that would rather the Munich massacre be overlooked this summer,” Lipman wrote.

The NBC broadcaster Bob Costas intends to call for a moment of silence for the Munich victims, and point out that he too disagrees with the I.O.C., during the network’s broadcast of the opening ceremony Friday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I intend to note that the I.O.C. denied the request,” Costas said. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive.” He said that during the opening ceremony he plans to say, “Here’s a minute of silence right now.”


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