Olympic Committee Takes Heat for Not Remembering '72 Terrorist Attack
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been criticized recently for its decision not to hold a remembrance on the anniversary of the 1972 terrorist attack on Israeli Olympians.
"We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," IOC President Jacques Rogge said at a Saturday press conference, reinforcing a decision first announced in May.
Over 100,000 people have now signed an online petition at Munich11.org asking for a minute of silence at the Olympics to remember the 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and referees who were murdered at the Munich Olympics.
"Hundreds of millions around the world are going to watch the opening ceremony in London next Friday," World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald Lauder said Sunday. "Forty years after the saddest moment in Olympic history -- when eleven Israeli athletes and sports officials and a German police officer were killed by Palestinian terrorists -- it would have been an excellent opportunity to show to everyone that the sports world stands united against terrorism. Instead, an IOC delegation will commemorate the dead at an airfield near Munich in September, but that ceremony hardly anybody will notice. Frankly, that's not good enough."
Lauder also said he hopes the IOC is not bowing to pressure from groups that would not wish to see Israeli athletes commemorated.
"Nobody wants to 'politicize' the Olympic Games, as the IOC seems to suggest, but Baron Rogge and his colleagues on the IOC Executive have utterly failed -- or refused -- to grasp the importance of such a symbolic act. One can only speculate on their motives. Let's hope it was not pressure from certain regimes that could not bear Israeli athletes being commemorated that has swayed the IOC against holding one minute's silence."
The WJC also noted that many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have supported their calls for a moment of silence.
Bob Costas, who will anchor the Olympics coverage for NBC, called the IOC's decision "baffling" and "insensitive," in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, and plans to stage his own form of protest. Costas will have a moment of silence during his broadcast and point out that the IOC denied the request for a moment of silence during the ceremony.
The Munich attack began on Sept. 5, 1972 when eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Israeli Olympic team's apartments, killing two and taking nine others hostage. They demanded the release of 200 inmates from Israeli prisons. Israel refused to negotiate. The German police attempted a rescue, but the hostages were killed in the attempt.
In a surprise to many, Rogge held a moment of silence on Monday during a speech at the Olympic 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. 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," said Rogge, who had competed in the Munich Olympics as a sailor.
Rogge told reporters after the speech that the commemoration was a "spontaneous suggestion" and acknowledged it was the first time in 40 years that a moment of silence had been held in Olympic village for the victims. He also said that he was not acting to stave off the criticisms about the lack of a remembrance in the opening ceremony.