Opening Olympic ceremonies ignore Munich Massacre
July 31, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Members of B’nai Brith Canada’s A Division softball teams the Kirkor Giants and the Hitmen, with coaches Noal Korman and Eitan Mammon, pause before their game for a minute of silence to remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics. The names of the Israelis were read aloud by Michael Mandel, national director of operations and sports coordinator, B’nai Brith Canada (not shown). They were two of 26 teams in Toronto and Winnipeg who observed a minute of silence. (Photo: Joanne Hill)
TORONTO – The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics ignored the 40th anniversary of the murders of 11 members of Israel’s Olympic team but found time to memorialize victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks.
In 1972, 11 members of the Israeli athletic team were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists during the Munich Olympic Games; none escaped with their lives. In the intervening years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has steadfastly refused to mention them during the opening ceremony of the games, although they have used the occasion to mark the deaths of others.
According to media reports, Jacques Rogges, president, IOC, turned a deaf ear to multiple pleas from family members and requests from government leaders and parliamentarians (including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, American President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as others in the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy), Jewish organizations and ordinary citizens, and refused to hold a minute of silence during this year’s opening ceremony. Rogge was widely quoted as saying, “We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident.”
Instead, Rogge presided over a minute of silence at a small gathering held in the Olympic Village four days before the official opening.
The four-hour opening ceremony could not spare one minute to honour weightlifters David Berger, Ze'ev Friedman and Joseph Romano; wrestlers Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin; wrestling referee Yossef Gutfreund; athletics coach Amitzur Shapira; marksmanship coach Kehat Shorr; fencing coach Andre Spitzer; weightlifting referee Yacov Springer and wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg.
Nevertheless, a nearly six-minute tribute to the victims of the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks in England – whose only connection to the Olympics was that the attacks occurred the day after London announced it had won its bid to host the 2012 Games – was included.
However, the Israelis were not forgotten, as people around the world gathered in their honour.
About 250 men from 26 B’nai Brith Canada softball teams in Toronto and Winnipeg held a minute of silence before starting their games on Thursday evening. According to media reports, similar gatherings were held in places ranging from London’s Trafalgar Square to Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles. An estimated 20,000 people reportedly responded to the British Zionist Federation’s call to observe a minute of silence at different locations; in addition, a memorial service was livestreamed from the Israeli embassy in England.
Before the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, B’nai Brith Canada sent letters to the CEOs of Canada’s television networks requesting a tribute by national broadcasters to the 11 Israeli victims of the Munich Massacre.
The Jewish human rights agency’s call was answered by CTV and Rogers, Canada’s official Olympic broadcasters, and Sun News Network.
CTV’s Brian Williams commemorated the Israeli Olympians during Canada’s official coverage of the opening ceremony as well as protested the IOC’s refusal to honour them.
Canadian 24-hour news channel, Sun News Network, devoted much of its Friday Olympic coverage to memorializing the Israeli athletes including a well-received moment of silence montage playing the Israeli national anthem and displaying pictures of the victims.
Sun News primetime personality Michael Coren also dedicated his entire opening monologue to the victims, blasting the IOC for its rejection of a moment of silence.
On Sunday, members of Italy’s Olympics team joined Israelis in the Olympic Village for a minute of silence.
Rogge’s decision was lauded by Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) cited an article in the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper about a letter Rajoub sent commending Rogge for his stance. According to PMW, the article’s headline read, “Sports are meant for peace, not for racism.”
Rajoub was convicted of throwing a grenade at an Israeli army bus in 1970 and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in 1985 as one of the 1,150 prisoners exchanged for three Israeli hostages held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He was arrested again in September 1986 and released in 1987 and arrested later in 1987. In January 1988 he was deported to Lebanon. He was allowed to return to the West Bank after the Oslo Accords were signed.