Thomas Bach described the 1972 attack on the Israelis as "cowardly" ©IOC/Greg Martin

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has welcomed the decision by the German Government to set up an investigation into the events surrounding the terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team during the Munich 1972 Olympics.

"Much has remained in the dark during this time. We must not allow this darkness to be followed by amnesia and indifference," Bach insisted during a commemorative event held at Furstenfeldbruck Airport, the place where an attempted rescue of Israeli athletes held hostage went tragically wrong in the small hours of the morning exactly 50 years ago today.

Bach’s message echoed that of the German State President Frank Walter Steinmeier who had earlier called for full disclosure.

"We welcome the fact that an independent commission is to shed full light on the darkness surrounding the actions of state agencies," Bach added.

"If we can in any way contribute to this clarification with information, we shall do so," he promised.

He described the attack as the "darkest day in Olympic history," and a "cowardly attack."

"We share the pain of the relatives of the 11 Israeli victims and the German policeman," Bach declared.

"This pain is all the deeper because those loved ones lost their lives at the Olympic Games.

"To this day, that barbaric attack fills us with horror, shame and disgust and yet our condolences can hardly ease the pain of the families who lost their son, brother, father, beloved spouse or love of their lives to this cowardly attack," he continued.

"Today, once more, we bow our heads as a mark of honour, tribute and deep respect for the victims.

"We empathise with the relatives. We share their grief, the murdered members of the Israeli Olympic team were, are and will remain part of our Olympic community."

The faces of the victims of the 1972 Olympic attack were displayed during a moment's silence at the memorial service  ©IOC/Greg Martin
The faces of the victims of the 1972 Olympic attack were displayed during a moment's silence at the memorial service ©IOC/Greg Martin

There had been campaigns to mark the terror attacks with a specific tribute at Olympic Ceremonies but until recently such moments at the Games were general in character.

Bach emphasised the impact of the tribute at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

"The meaning of the Olympic Games is the peaceful celebration of the unity of humankind in all our diversity, regardless of political or cultural differences.

"For this reason, the attack was also an attack on the Olympic Games and the Olympic values.

"The minute of silence shared with hundreds of millions of people all over the world during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 made this movingly clear."

Bach also paid tribute to the efforts of the Israeli Olympic Committee and thanked Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andrei was one of the victims in 1972. 

Ankie has been a tireless campaigner on behalf of the families of those who died.

"No ceremony can make us forget 50 years of grief, pain, doubt and uncertainty," Bach said.

"Despite this terrible loss, neither the relatives nor the National Olympic Committee of Israel turned their backs on the Games.

"They have always extended their hands to us, making the dignified commemorations at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 possible. 

"For this, we are forever grateful to them."