Commentary Magazine


Topic: London Olympics Opening Ceremony

London Olympics Had Time for Some Terror Victims But Not Israelis

In the weeks and months prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, the organizers and the International Olympics Committee were adamant in insisting that there was no time during the event for a single moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre. The 40th anniversary of the terrorist violence that disrupted the sports extravaganza went unmarked during the worldwide television show except for the courageous decision of American broadcaster Bob Costas, who silenced his microphone for five seconds in honor of the Munich victims. But as it turned out, those who produced the opening ceremonies were not opposed to commemorating the victims of terrorist violence, just to remembering Israeli victims. The official program included a nearly six-minute long choreographed commemoration of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.

The excuse for this is that the terrorist assault on London by four Islamist bombers took place 24 hours after the announcement that London would be the host of the 2012 Olympics and is thus associated in the minds of the British with the Games. Fair enough. Those attacks that took the lives of 52 people deserve to be remembered, as do those of other terrorist attacks by Islamists around the globe. But the juxtaposition of the tribute to those victims with the absolute refusal of the organizers to devote a moment to the memory of an event that is far more closely tied to the Olympics was both shocking and indecent. While there were those who speculated that prejudice against Jews and Israelis was at the heart of the IOC’s decision prior to Friday, the surprising inclusion of the 7/7 attacks as a major element in the ceremony confirms that this was the case. The only possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Olympic movement considers Jewish blood shed by terrorists at an Olympics to be somehow less significant than that of other victims.

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In the weeks and months prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, the organizers and the International Olympics Committee were adamant in insisting that there was no time during the event for a single moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre. The 40th anniversary of the terrorist violence that disrupted the sports extravaganza went unmarked during the worldwide television show except for the courageous decision of American broadcaster Bob Costas, who silenced his microphone for five seconds in honor of the Munich victims. But as it turned out, those who produced the opening ceremonies were not opposed to commemorating the victims of terrorist violence, just to remembering Israeli victims. The official program included a nearly six-minute long choreographed commemoration of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.

The excuse for this is that the terrorist assault on London by four Islamist bombers took place 24 hours after the announcement that London would be the host of the 2012 Olympics and is thus associated in the minds of the British with the Games. Fair enough. Those attacks that took the lives of 52 people deserve to be remembered, as do those of other terrorist attacks by Islamists around the globe. But the juxtaposition of the tribute to those victims with the absolute refusal of the organizers to devote a moment to the memory of an event that is far more closely tied to the Olympics was both shocking and indecent. While there were those who speculated that prejudice against Jews and Israelis was at the heart of the IOC’s decision prior to Friday, the surprising inclusion of the 7/7 attacks as a major element in the ceremony confirms that this was the case. The only possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Olympic movement considers Jewish blood shed by terrorists at an Olympics to be somehow less significant than that of other victims.

It is therefore somewhat ironic that the main controversy about the opening ceremonies in the world press is not the omission of Munich but the fact that NBC, which broadcasts the Olympics in the United States, chose to cut away from the ceremony (as it does customarily throughout an entertainment spectacle that lasted several hours) during the 7/7 bombing tribute to show something else. In fairness to the organizers, we’re not sure that an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps was worth the time. But the exclusion of Munich from the official program renders NBC’s curious editing a minor issue. Those who have expressed outrage at NBC’s decision while being apathetic about or in agreement with the exclusion of any memory of Munich are hypocrites.

When Ankie Spitzer, the widow of one of the Munich victims and a driving force behind the effort to ask for a moment of silence at the Olympics, met this week with IOC head Jacques Rogge, she asked him if the reason he could not give up one moment from his precious TV show was that those who died 40 years ago were Israelis. He did not answer. But we now know that was the case. The minutes given to the London bombing gives the lie to the excuse given by the group that a commemoration of Munich would have been a political intrusion and therefore inappropriate for a joyous Olympics ceremony. For the Olympic Committee, like the United Nations and the rest of an international community, there are always different rules for Jews. And chief of those rules is that Jewish blood is cheap.

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Not One Moment to Remember Munich

In spite of the growing calls for a moment of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the head of the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that he would not alter his determination to refuse to allow the issue to intrude upon the opening ceremonies of the London Games this Friday. Jacques Rogge said yesterday that it “was not fit” for a commemoration of Munich to be included in the gala start to the global athletic extravaganza.

This week, President Obama added his voice to those already calling for a moment of silence at the ceremony. Perhaps even more importantly, Bob Costas, NBC television’s Olympic host, has said that he will impose his own moment of silence on the coverage of the event when the Israeli team enters the stadium:

“I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” Costas said. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”

Costas deserves great deal of credit for not allowing the IOC’s desire to keep the memory of Munich out of sight during the games (Rogge said he will attend a ceremony honoring the Munich victims in Germany next week). But while he finds the refusal to simply devote one minute to remembrance “puzzling,” there is no mystery about it. Rogge has called requests for such a memorial “political.” While there is nothing political about recalling the terrorist attack, by that he means that many of the participating nations are not comfortable highlighting a crime committed by Palestinians or honoring the memory of Israeli Jews. As historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote this past week, the controversy is more proof that in the eyes of the world, spilled Jewish blood remains a cheap commodity.

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In spite of the growing calls for a moment of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the head of the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that he would not alter his determination to refuse to allow the issue to intrude upon the opening ceremonies of the London Games this Friday. Jacques Rogge said yesterday that it “was not fit” for a commemoration of Munich to be included in the gala start to the global athletic extravaganza.

This week, President Obama added his voice to those already calling for a moment of silence at the ceremony. Perhaps even more importantly, Bob Costas, NBC television’s Olympic host, has said that he will impose his own moment of silence on the coverage of the event when the Israeli team enters the stadium:

“I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” Costas said. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”

Costas deserves great deal of credit for not allowing the IOC’s desire to keep the memory of Munich out of sight during the games (Rogge said he will attend a ceremony honoring the Munich victims in Germany next week). But while he finds the refusal to simply devote one minute to remembrance “puzzling,” there is no mystery about it. Rogge has called requests for such a memorial “political.” While there is nothing political about recalling the terrorist attack, by that he means that many of the participating nations are not comfortable highlighting a crime committed by Palestinians or honoring the memory of Israeli Jews. As historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote this past week, the controversy is more proof that in the eyes of the world, spilled Jewish blood remains a cheap commodity.

The symbolism of a moment of silence for the victims of the Munich crime is important because it again reminds us that the rhetoric about brotherhood and peace that is endlessly spouted during the two-week-long Olympics show is empty talk. As Lipstadt notes, no one could possibly doubt that if there were ever an assault on Western or Third World athletes and coaches at the Olympics, the tragedy would always be prominently remembered at opening ceremonies. The only thing preventing Rogge from acquiescing to what would seem to be a simple and easily satisfied request is that doing so would confer legitimacy on Israel’s presence at the Olympics that most of the world would rather not acknowledge. Nor are many of the nations whose flags will be paraded on Friday night happy about even a second being spent about Jewish victims of Palestinian terror. After all, doing so would be implicitly remind the world that Israel remains the one nation on the planet that is marked for extinction by the hatred of many of its neighbors.

While we think Costas’ stand on the moment of silence has added another reason to consider him one of the most thoughtful voices on television, the IOC’s ongoing refusal ought to give the rest of us a reason to skip the globaloney fest altogether.

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