"Shame on you" IOC President told by widow of Munich Massacre victim
Monday, 06 August 2012
August 6 - A ceremony was held here tonight to remember the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972, and the controversy caused by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) refusal to hold a minute's silence in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony was never far from the agenda.
That made for an at times uncomfortable night for IOC President Jacques Rogge, who at one point had to sit and listen as Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing coach Andre, killed in 1972, condemned him personally.
Spitzer's husband was one of 11 Israelis (pictured top) and a German police officer who were killed by Palestinian terrorists from the Black September group who scaled the walls of the Olympic Village on the night of September 5, before taking members of the team hostage.
Following unsuccessful negotiations for their release, all the athletes taken hostage and a policeman were murdered.
Israel subsequently launched an operation to find and kill all of those responsible for the shocking murders.
Spitzer has led a campaign ever since to have a minute's silence at the Opening Ceremony of future Games in memory of the 11, and received a standing ovation after her attack on Rogge and the IOC.
"Shame on you IOC, because you have forgotten 11 members of the Olympic Family," she said here tonight.
"You're discriminating against them only because they are Israelis and Jews.
"We will come back until we hear the words you need to say because you owe them.
"Those who forget history are bound to repeat it.
"Sometimes I wonder if I am the last person left who believes in the Olympic ideals.
"Is the IOC only interested in power, money and politics... did they forget they are supposed to promote peace, brotherhood and fair play?
"My husband Andre was chosen to go to the Olympics, probably with the same dreams as Jacques Rogge and Seb Coe when they went to the Games... the only difference is our loved ones came home in coffins.
"But they were members of the same Olympic Family and that is why we want them remembered as such.
"Not here in this beautiful Guildhall, not in the Hilton Hotel in Beijing, not in the backyard of our ambassador in Athens, but within the Olympic framework."
With London 2012 marking the 40th anniversary of the tragedy, there was a particularly concerted effort to finally have a moment's silence incorporated into the Opening Ceremony, which fell on deaf ears.
The IOC have resisted the calls on the basis that it would threaten Olympic "unity", pointing out that they have a permanent memorial at their Olympic Museum in Lausanne.
Rogge also last month paid tribute to the memory of the 11 at a ceremony inside the Olympic Village, the first time the IOC had ever made such a gesture.
The memorial service, held by the Israeli Olympic Committee at every Olympic Games, and which was this year organised together with the Israeli Embassy in London and the Jewish Committee for the London Games, attracted a host of key figures from the worlds of politics and sport.
Among them were Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, who enjoyed an opportunity for rare consensus during their summer break from Parliamentary duties in remembering the slain athletes.
"As the world comes together in London to celebrate the Games and the values it represents, it is right that we should stop and remember the 11 Israeli athletes who so tragically lost their lives when those values came under attack in Munich 40 years ago today," Cameron said, a sentiment which was echoed by both Clegg and Miliband.
"It was a truly shocking act of evil, a crime against the Jewish people, against humanity.
"A crime the world must never forget."
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, Rogge and other members of the IOC, London Mayor Boris Johnson and even former Chelsea football coach Avram Grant were among the illustrious guests in attendance.
The entire Israeli delegation, led by their head Efraim Zinger, was also introduced during the ceremony.
Orchestrating the evening's proceedings was Chaim Topol, star of the famous Jewish musical Fiddler on the Roof, which the Israeli team had watched a performance of on the night of the attack.
Spitzer's plea to the IOC was echoed by Israel's sports minister, Limor Livnat, and Mick Davis, the leader of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and a key figure in Britain's Jewish community.
"When the Olympic Games were first held in ancient Greece the city states were often at war," said Livnat.
"A sacred truce was adopted by all the parties so the Games could continue in peace.
"The murderers of our athletes did not understand what the Greeks understood two and a half millennia ago.
"The Olympic spirit comes through celebrating human life, terrorism to celebrate death... those who called the IOC for a minute's silence understand this.
"President Obama, the United States Senate, the Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, and members of Parliament of the United Kingdom all understand this.
"Regrettably, their appeals were rejected."
"President Rogge, on behalf of the British Jewish community, we say to the IOC that to be silent is to be complicit," added Davis.
"Your presence here is an important personal statement to your colleagues at the IOC, but it is not enough.
"Surely it is your obligation now to end the pain and injustice that the IOC official silence has meant for the victims' families.
"If the notion of the Olympic ideal is to retain its value the IOC as the custodian of that value must not remain silent... it is never too late to do the right thing, and that time is now."
Both speeches were also met with loud applause, and as if that was not enough, United States President Barack Obama sent a message which was read out and expressed support for "any effort to recall the terrible loss that was suffered in Munich".
"They were citizens of a young democracy in the ancient holy land of the Jewish people," Obama added.
"Let us all remember they were fathers and sons, husbands and brothers, and their loss left an empty space in families and communities that will never forget them."
Between condemnations of himself and the IOC, Rogge paid tribute to the slain athletes, saying: "I competed in Munich in 1972 and I will never forget why we are here.
"We are all here today because we should show... that the victims of 1972 are never forgotten.
"We are here to pay tribute to 11 great members of the Israeli Olympic delegation who showed courage throughout their ordeal.
"There is no justification for terrorism, ever.
"The Olympic Movement will continue more than ever to bring this message to future generations."
July 2012: Widows step up campaign for minute's silence in London for Munich victims
July 2012: No minute's silence for 1972 Munich murder victims at London 2012, confirms Rogge
July 2012: David Gold - A minute's silence should honour victims murdered in Munich 1972 massacre
July 2012: Black September reminds us that the £1 billion London 2012 security budget is worthwhile
July 2012: Coe to hold "personal" memorial for Israeli Munich Olympics victims at London 2012 Opening