IOC president criticized at Munich 11 memorial
LONDON — The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) came under attack from successive speakers at a London memorial for the Munich 11.
Jacques Rogge, who was in the audience during the event on Aug. 6, was blamed for refusing to allow a minute of silence during the opening ceremony of the London Games in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were slain by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics.
A petition started by the families of the victims and JCC Rockland in suburban New York generated more than 111,000 signatures from across the world, but failed to move the IOC. U.S. President Barack Obama and international lawmakers also backed the minute-of-silence effort.
“Shame on you, IOC,” said Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who died in the attack. “You have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family. You discriminate against them only because they are Israelis and Jews.”
Another of the widows, Ilana Romano, told Rogge that he had “submitted to terrorism.
“You will be written down on the pages of history as… a president who violated the Olympic charter calls for brotherhood, friendship and peace,” she said at the Guildhall, a medieval-style great hall in central London. Both women received standing ovations.
The Israeli Embassy in London and the National Olympic Committee of Israel organized the memorial along with the local London Jewish community.
Members of the 2012 Israeli Olympic delegation sat on stage for the ceremonies, which were attended by more than 650 people, including representatives of various national Olympic committees. Among the many government officials in the audience were British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, opposition leader Ed Miliband, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat.
Rogge, accompanied by the only Israeli representative on the IOC, Alex Gilady, told the audience that remembering the events of 1972 was “painful” and that he “would never forget why we’re here.”
Pointedly avoiding referring to the Munich minute-of-silence campaign, Rogge – a member of the Belgian yachting team at the 1972 Olympics – condemned terror and said the Munich attack “cast terrorism’s dark shadow on the Olympic Games. It was a direct assault on the core values of the Olympic movement.”
Rogge’s speech was greeted by polite applause from the audience.
Livnat said that those asking for a minute of silence were in tune with the Olympic spirit. Mick Davis, who as chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council and of the United Jewish Israel Appeal is the most senior lay leader of the British Jewish community, told Rogge that “to be silent is to be complicit… to fail to remember is to be complicit.”
Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Anglo-Jewry’s main representative organization, told JTA that “it is good that [Rogge] should see how we feel.” Meanwhile in Canada, MP Irwin Cotler wrote to Rogge urging the IOC to adopt a moment of silence in memory of the slain Israeli athletes. Cotler noted that the Parliament of Canada adopted a motion that he had presented calling for a moment of silence.
Others making the same plea include Obama, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, various Parliaments including resolutions by the U.S. Congress, as well as by Canadian, Australian, German, Italian and U.K. parliamentarians. The IOC, he pointed out, had held ceremonies memorializing the victims of the 2005 London train bombings and the victims of 9/11, which had no connection with the Olympic movement. The IOC had also memorialized a Georgian athlete killed in a training accident.
“The refusal of the IOC, therefore, to observe a moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre – the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches for no other reason than that they were Israelis and Jews – is as offensive as it is incomprehensible,” Cotler said.
“Accordingly, it is not hard to infer… that not only were the athletes killed because they were Israeli and Jewish, but that the moment of silence is being denied them also because they are Israeli and Jewish,” he added.
– With files from Paul Lungen