Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Continued IOC refusal to remember Munich darkens tomorrow’s Olympic Opening Ceremony

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Despite calls from the victims' families and world leaders across the globe, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will reportedly not honour the memory of the 11 Israeli Olympians and one West German police officer murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich at the opening ceremony for the London games tomorrow.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has explained his refusal. "We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not conducive to remembering such a tragic incident."

Unfortunately, Rogge's statement belies the history of his own organisation. The IOC has in fact devoted minutes of silence to commemorate tragic incidents at past Opening Ceremonies. John McGrath of Tacoma, Washington's News Tribune hits the nail on the head when he notes that:

"What Rogge really meant was it wouldn't be conducive to the IOC's relationship with nations that aren't friendly with Israel. The IOC isn't opposed to mourning the dead; it just depends on the homeland of those who died.
[...] During the Opening Ceremony for the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake City - the first major international event held after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - eight U.S. athletes, accompanied by five policemen and four firefighters from New York City, carried the tattered Ground Zero flag into Rice-Eccles Stadium. Three minutes of silence ensued.
At the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games, then IOC-president Juan Antonio Samaranch called for a moment of silence ‘in memory of the city of Sarajevo,' where a civil war was raging.
‘Please stop killing,' Samaranch said in his Opening Ceremony remarks. ‘Drop your guns, please.'"

In addition, as Vic Alhadeff from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies recently noted:

"At the 2010 [Winter] Olympics in Vancouver a minute's silence was held at the opening ceremony to honour Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili, killed in a luge training accident. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge officiated, but he steadfastly rejects a minute's silence in London..."

No such call, apparently, will go out in memory of the Israelis slaughtered in Munich simply for being Israelis.

Deborah Lipstadt, noted Holocaust scholar and historian, goes one step further, accusing the IOC of offering an explanation that is

"nothing more than a pathetic excuse. The athletes who were murdered were from Israel and were Jews-that is why they aren't being remembered. The only conclusion one can draw is that Jewish blood is cheap, too cheap to risk upsetting a bloc of Arab nations and other countries that oppose Israel and its policies."

Meanwhile, at the same time that the IOC continues to naively claim that the Olympics is an apolitical spectacle, the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues its tradition of glorifying the Munich terrorists, asserting that remembering the victims of the Munich Massacre is racism. PA Olympic Committee Head Jibril Rajoub, according to the official daily al-Hayat al-Jadida, praised Rogge's refusal of a moment of silence in a letter sent to the IOC this week, and even claimed that that commemorating the Munich victims would be "racism:"

"He said that his [Rogge's] position not to politicise sports, and his determination to implement the International Olympic Charter represents a victory for freedom in sports."

Rajoub's letter claims that "Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them."

Adam Chandler at Tablet Magazine sees Rajoub's outrageous claim for what it really is:

"It seems a waste to devote any energy to this atrocious statement in the context of the campaign to honor the memory of the 11 slain athletes. But if Rajoub's aspirational quote about sports really carried any weight, then there would be no need to hold a moment of silence to mark the 1972 Olympics; the events [wouldn't have] been marred by the hate Rajoub's now [hypocritical] protests."

As the Opening Ceremonies for the London Olympics approaches, Jacques Rogge and the IOC remain obstinate in their refusal to honour the memory of the Munich 11 appropriately. But as world leaders and people the world over remember these victims, the IOC did have a rushed commemoration in front of a mere 100 people or so. While shockingly, this is the first time that the IOC has ever officially done anything to remember the Munich victims in its own ceremonies, Deborah Lipstadt makes a strong case for why it is far from enough:

"Never before or since were athletes murdered at the Games. Never before or since were the Games used by terrorists for their evil purposes. Never before or since were those who came to participate in a sports competition murdered for who they were and where they came from.
The proper place to acknowledge such a tragedy is not in a so-called spontaneous moment in front of 100 people, but in a purposeful action by the entire Olympic ‘family.'"

In addition, news reports contained stark reminders that another Munich remains possible. Forty years after Munich and just one week after a terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed 5 Israelis, Israel is taking precautions to protect its athletes at the upcoming London games in the face of specific warnings that Iranian-sponsored attack on them may be being planned. According to SBS:

"Israel has bolstered its security presence for the London Olympics amid fears that an Iranian terror squad in Europe may be planning an attack on its athletes, according to a press report.
Scotland Yard and Britain's domestic intelligence service MI5 are believed to have raised their assessment of the threat against the Israeli delegation following last week's suicide attack on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria, the Sunday Times reported."

Andrea Nadel


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