Days after the news broke that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had refused Israel’s request for a moment of silence for the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, the IOC finally issued a rationale for its decision. But the group’s perfunctory and lame excuse for why not one moment could be spared to remember the 11 Israeli athletes who were slain by Palestinian terrorists won’t convince anyone. As CNN reports, the group’s attitude can be summed up as a mere case of been there, done that.
“The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. The memory of the victims is not fading away. One thing is certain, we will never forget,” Andrew Mitchell, an IOC spokesman, told CNN.
IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend the Israeli team’s traditional reception in memory of the victims at the Games. “However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games,” he said.
In fact, the only substantive commemoration of the 11 Israelis came immediately after their murder which was then followed by a blunt statement by the then head of the IOC Avery Brundage — a well known anti-Semite — to the effect that the Games were too important to be further postponed by the tragedy. Since then, though Olympic officials have paid lip service to Israeli efforts to remember the 11, there has been a consistent effort to downplay or ignore them. If, as the spokesman claimed, the IOC “will continue” to pay tribute to their memory, why is one moment of silence during a ceremony that goes on for hours too much to ask?
An online petition has been started asking the IOC for “Just One Minute” of silence for the Israelis. It comes with a video from Ankie Spitzer, widow of Andrei Spitzer, who was one of the 11, and who speaks on behalf of all the families of the victims. As she states so eloquently, she has been asking the IOC for 40 years for such a commemoration but has been turned down every time.
As Ms. Spitzer states:
These men were sons; fathers; uncles; brothers; friends; teammates; athletes. They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins, killed in the Olympic Village and during hostage negotiations.
The families of the Munich 11 have worked for four decades to obtain recognition of the Munich massacre from the International Olympic Committee. We have requested a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics starting with the ’76 Montreal Games. Repeatedly, these requests have been turned down. The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games. …
Silence is a fitting tribute for athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Silence contains no statements, assumptions or beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret.
I have no political or religious agenda. Just the hope that my husband and the other men who went to the Olympics in peace, friendship and sportsmanship are given what they deserve. One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again. Please do not let history repeat itself.
For my husband Andrei and the others killed, we must remember the doctrine of the Olympic Spirit, “to build a peaceful and better world which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play,” is more powerful than politics.
As I wrote previously, the reason for the IOC’s refusal isn’t any great mystery. The vast majority of member nations in the Olympic movement want nothing at the Games to remind the world of a crime committed by terrorists seeking the destruction of the State of Israel. In this sense, the IOC is a mirror image of the United Nations, a world body where anti-Semitism is the norm rather than the exception.
This week, the Olympic torch will start to be carried around Britain as a prelude to the Games as part of a tradition initiated by the Nazis to promote the 1936 Berlin Olympics. That makes it an apt moment for those persons of good will to make it clear to the IOC that ignoring the 40th anniversary of the massacre is indefensible. Both President Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, who chaired the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, must add their voices to that of Ankie Spitzer in calling for just one minute to remember.