Organizers of the London Summer Olympics have rejected a plea to honor the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes who were massacred by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich games 40 years ago.
Ankie Spitzer, an Israeli woman whose husband Andre was among the victims of the 1972 atrocity, asked Olympic officials to commemorate the dead with a minute’s silence at the opening of the London games.
An online petition she started to promote her initiative has attracted more than 80,000 signatures across the world.
However, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has never conducted an official memorial during the games to honor the Munich victims.
The IOC refusal to hold a moment of silence during the London games opening ceremony, which will be watched worldwide, is simply shameful. How else can we interpret the IOC stance decision but as political in what is meant to be a non-political movement?, said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
“Is a minute of silence too much to ask, given the tragedy that befell the Israeli contingent and, indeed, the entire Olympic movement?”
A spokesman for London 2012 said in a statement that the Munich victims would be honored at a separate ceremony at Guildhall in London, in cooperation with Israeli Embassy, Israel’s Olympic Committee and Britain’s Jewish community.
BBC speculated that Olympic organizers likely wish to avoid antagonizing Arab and Muslim contingents by staging a commemoration (i.e., ‘politicizing’ the games) during the event itself.
Spitzer does not like the idea of a separate commemoration.
[The Munich victims] were not accidental tourists she said.
They were part of the Olympic family and they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympics.
She told the Jewish Chronicle newspaper that London’s refusal to hold a minute’s silence is tantamount to discrimination.
“It's discrimination in my opinion. There have been other memorials at the opening ceremony, it has been done before,” she said.
“Two years ago, before the Vancouver Winter Olympics, athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training accident. So at the opening ceremony, members of the Olympic committee stood up, gave a speech, and sent their condolences. And rightly so. So what is the problem? Is it because [the Munich athletes] were Israelis and Jews? I can only come to that conclusion.
Spitzer has some powerful allies on her side -- the U.S. Senate, 50 Conservative British MPs and the governments of Australia, Canada and Germany have also called for a minute’s silence to honor to Munich dead.
Holding a moment of silence in memory of the fallen Israeli athletes during the London Olympics will count as a kind, humanitarian gesture, and will send the message that violence and terror do not comply with the Olympic idea, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle wrote to the IOC.
However, thus far Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has refused to comply. (Hunt, however, will be attending the aforementioned Guildhall ceremony).
Over 200 countries will participate in the London Olympics, including some of Israeli’s bitterest enemies, Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.