Mon, November 18, 2013

Murdered Israeli athletes deserve their moment

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency



Sun News remembers Munich massacre
 

LONDON - When Ankie Spitzer’s husband left home for the Summer Olympics, an event that is supposed to bring the world closer together, the last thing she expected was to never see him again.

That was 40 years ago.

And for the past four decades, Spitzer has asked nothing from the International Olympic Committee but for a short, single moment of silence, a moment of respect, some kind of public acknowledgment of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, including her husband Andrei, who were murdered during a terrorist act at the 1972 Games in Munich.

She has asked the IOC to pay tribute to the lives lost on their watch and in this year, the 40th anniversary of the worst of Olympic tragedies, others have come forward, more publicly than ever before, hoping the IOC would allow some kind of recognition at Friday’s opening ceremony in London.

Several branches of the Canadian government have written letters to the IOC saying it’s time. Several branches of the American government has done the same. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and American president Barack Obama have been clear on the subject: It’s time to stand up and say something.

But instead, there is only silence, indifference, arrogance and IOC politics.

The legendary Paul McCartney will sing ŒHey Jude’ Friday to welcome the world to the London Games but IOC president Jacques Rogge refuses to disrupt the show for what he deems a negative distraction.

All Ankie Spitzer asked Rogge for was a moment: She got an audience with the IOC president. But that is all she got.

“We are outraged by the denial of the request, which comes not only from us but from so many people around the world,” Spitzer said in a statement. “Our husbands were murdered at the Olympics in Munich. To observe a minute of silence in their memory would let the world know where the IOC stands in the fight against terrorism. President Rogge’s callous disregard for what he certainly knows is right is a severe blow to the Olympic ideals.”

On NBC, during the opening ceremony, host Bob Costas has already told people he will have his own moment of silence when the Israeli team marches into the stadium, independent of the IOC or the network he works for. On CTV, legendary host Brian Williams has also acknowledged he will make some reference to the killings of 1972, but wouldn’t say in what context.

The world will see it. The world will hear it.

But the IOC instead chooses to run and hide, their Olympic heads buried deep in the sand, hearing no evil, seeing no evil, acknowledging no evil. The murder of 11 Israelis in Munich took place on their watch, on their security, ostensibly done by terrorists from countries that now participate in their Games.

This was the right time to make up for past ambivalence.

Rogge did take part in a moment of silence at the Athlete’s Village when the Israeli flag was raised but that was a private function, for Israelis, by Israelis. It was not for the world to see.

There have been other small ceremonies before. Before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, there was a service held at a Jewish high school in Atlanta, where children spoke and were asked to write songs, children who were all born long after 1972. But all them learned of the history, were made to understand what went wrong in Munich.

The kind of understanding and sensitivity the IOC has historically run from.

There were more than one thousand people at the ceremony in Atlanta 16 years ago, and some American and Canadian and Israeli athletes were in attendance.

No one from the IOC, although invited, attended.

There was a similar candle-lighting ceremony with children in Sydney four years later. Again, an invitation was extended to the IOC. Again, no one showed up.

Rogge has stated that the opening ceremony is no place for sadness. Yet two years ago in Vancouver, the opening ceremony made certain to pay tribute to Jack Poole, a central figure in the 2010 Games, who passed away four months before seeing the fruits of his labour.

His death, it should be noted, was not related to the IOC.

The deaths related to the Olympics cause Rogge to turn the other way, a side of him and his organization that is not at all attractive.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

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