As London's Organising Committee of the Olympic Games prepares for the start of this summer’s games, the international furore over the continued refusal to hold an official commemoration for the victims of the Munich Massacre fails to die down, as the widow of the one of the slain athletes brands the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as “corrupt.”There was a brief and much criticized ceremony immediately after the massacre in 1972, where the head of the IOC at the time compared the slaughter to the movement to stop Rhodesia from participating in the games.
The organisation and its president Jacques Rogge have been subject to intense criticism from across the international community for its continued refusal to honour the 11 Israel Olympians murdered at the 1972 Munich Games with a minute’s silence to mark the 40th anniversary of the killings, in what has been presented as a “humanitarian” gesture.
Munich widow Ankie Spitzer spearheaded the campaign by launching an online protest, which has since garnered support from across political spectrums in several countries including Israel, Canada, the UK, Australia, the US, Belgium and Germany.
In the latest development, some 140 Italian parliamentarians signed a letter to Rogge this week, calling for minute’s silence to be instituted.
The appeal was driven by Italian Jewish MP Fianna Nirenstein, who is vice president of the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, and who said the gesture would mark “a moment of pity for these murdered athletes and a firm condemnation of terror”.
Although IOC officials have on many occasions attended private memorials to the slain Olympians held in cities hosting the Games throughout the years, they have not staged a minute’s silence in the 40 years since the tragedy.
In a letter launching her campaign for an official silence to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacres, Spitzer wrote:
“Silence is a fitting tribute for athletes who lost their lives on the Olympic stage. Silence contains no statements, assumptions or beliefs and requires no understanding of language to interpret.”
Rogge’s succinct response declared that "within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away."
The Israeli foreign ministry insinuated a political dimension to the IOC’s refusal, when it responded that “perhaps the IOC thinks anything to do with Israel is controversial. It is not a display of great courage and integrity.”
Spitzer declared the IOC’s continued refusal is evidence of it being “a corrupt organisation, led by greed rather than the Olympic spirit”, adding that “the IOC’s refusal is pure discrimination – greed and anti-Semitism”.
Citing the increasing funding the organisation relies on from oil-rich gulf states, Spitzer claims that Rogge protested his inability to act earlier this year when the two met to discuss her appeals, saying his hands were tied by admission of 46 Arab and Muslim members to the IOC. “No,” Spitzer claims she responded, “my husband’s hands were tied, not yours.”
The Vancouver Sun recalls what happened:
A memorial service was held the day after the murders, but it was more farce than memorial. When the flags of all the competing nations were lowered to half-mast, 10 Arab nations were so incensed that they had them raised as soon as the ceremony was over.A book about the 1972 Olympics notes:
Arab teams boycotted the service, remaining in the Olympic Village, and officials from the Lebanese team told journalists, "We did not go to the stadium, We are confined to our quarters by our chief of mission." The response from the Saudi team was more outrageous: "What service? What shootings?"(h/t Ishai)