Will the IOC Find “Just One Minute” to Commemorate the Athletes Slain at Munich Olympics?
The International Olympic Committee has been petitioned to hold a minute of silence at the London Olympics opening ceremony on July 27 to remember the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics. But so far the IOC rejected the idea: “We do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said. He added that “the IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions”; yet, the record shows that the IOC has never held an official public commemoration.
In September 1972, eight members of Yasser Arafat’s notorious Black September terrorist group broke into the athletes village in Munich and attacked the Israeli team. Two of the athletes were immediately killed and nine were taken hostage, only to be executed by the Palestinian terrorists when the German police bungled a rescue attempt after a 20-hour standoff (a German policeman, as well as five of the terrorists were killed as well). The unfolding horror was covered by the international media. Willi Daume, president of the Munich Olympics Organizing Committee asked the IOC to cancel the remainder of the Munich Games out of respect for the murdered Israelis. But the then IOC President Avery Brundage refused, insisting that “the Games must go on”. And so they did.
The families of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes, led by Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano (the widows of fencing coach Andre Spitzer and weightlifter Yossef Romano, respectively) have requested a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of each Olympics since the 1976 Montreal Games, to convey respect and to promote peace. But each time their request has been turned down by the IOC. This year, the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, Ankie and Ilana have started an internet petition, noting that a minute of silence “is a fitting tribute for athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Moreover, [it will] “clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again”. The petition was expected to gain no more than 10,000 signatures by the opening day of the London games, but with more than two months left, the petition has already gathered more than 46,000 signatures from around the world. The campaign spilled into other social media as well: a Facebook page has been created urging people to sign the petition, and a Twitter trend started under the hashtag #justoneminute. Also, for the first time the Munich Massacre widows’ fight has now been taken up by Israeli officials. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon made a formal request to the IOC to hold a minute’s silence to commemorate the slain Israeli athletes in order “to send an unequivocal and public message to the world that the IOC stands against hatred and violence”. But Israel’s request was denied.
The “Just one minute” campaign appears to be gathering public support around the world. In the U.S., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has released a statement, and Congressman Eliot Engel and Congresswoman Nita Lowey have introduced a House Resolution, calling on the IOC to commemorate the Munich 11 during the London Games opening ceremony. The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League also had called on the IOC to approve the minute of silence. A similar motion to hold a minute’s silence in the House of Commons has been filed in the British Parliament by Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East. It is reported to be backed by 20 MPs from across the political spectrum. Parliament is likely to hold the minute of silence on the 40th anniversary of the massacre in September, rather than during the London Games themselves, as it is not sitting then.
The 2012 Olympics will last seventeen days, which amounts to 24,480 minutes. Whether one of them will be dedicated to “to building a peaceful and better world by educating young people through sport practiced without discrimination”, as the Olympic charter claims, remains to be seen.
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