July 31, 2012 | 9:06 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This Friday, I was amongst the 2 billion people who watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It was very impressive, but in spite of my endless efforts, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. It was a magnificent event, a prologue to the sports event we’ve all been waiting for. An event which is one of the few common grounds for all the residents of planet Earth. Because sports, just like music, is a common language to all people. In sports, just like in music, there should be no room for politics. The Olympic games should have been the opportunity for all the countries of the world to enjoy a friendly competition, to cheer their team and perhaps even be impressed with other teams. But as much as these games are a competition, they are supposed to be a professional competition, where the winners and losers are accountable for their achievements. In this competition there should be no politics, so that we can all enjoy the games. In this competition, the participants should be addressed to as athletes, and there should be no special treatment due to one’s nationality. Politics free- this is how it should be and how it is presented to the world.
After watching the opening ceremony, I am ashamed to say that the people behind this grand production caved in to politics. Even though they decided not to, I still had hope that in the last moment, they will change their minds and show one last respect to the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed in Munich in 1972. The request for a moment of silence in their memory was denied by the IOC for the so called fear that Arabic countries would boycott the ceremony. This reason was so absurd that I was sure they would come to their senses and surprise everybody with that minute of silence, especially after more than 20,000 Londoners held an informal one, along with many Israelis and Americans. Just like the musicians who cancelled their concerts in Israel, the IOC, while announcing they don’t want to let politics in this so called neutral territory, let it in in a horrible way. Those 11 athletes were people before they were Israelis. They were 11 athletes who were taken hostage and then killed by a Palestinian group. Is it just me, or that in a normal world a minute of silence would have been held? In a normative world, the participants of the Olympic Games would have showed respect for their fellow athletes who were brutally murdered. In a normative world, their nationality wouldn’t have mattered. And as if all this is not insensitive enough, the first part of the ceremony ended with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the 7/7 London bombing. The bombing occurred in 2005, when an Islamic terrorist committed suicide in the middle of London, during rush hour. If beforehand, the IOC could have maybe get away with this whole debacle by saying the Olympic Games should revolve around the living and not the dead, this minute of silence made the inequity and discrimination even clearer.
Once again, politics rears its ugly head, and once again, Israel is on the losing side for no reason. I’ve showed by affirmative objection to musicians who cancel their concerts in Israel, because they falsely accuse us for things we don’t do to the Palestinians, many times before. This is much worse. This is not private people who don’t like Israel, this is an official worldwide event which shows no proper respect for the dead, just because they fear those who supported this massacre would not show up to the event. What sense does it make? The IOC was so blinded by politics that they have lost all sensitivity. Those athletes were people, and I have a strange feeling that if they were from any other country, a minute of silence would have been held. This hurts not only the state of Israel, but also the families of the 11 athletes. By making this decision, by marking the deceased as Israelis first and athletes later, they ruined the essence of the Olympic Games as a politics-free-sports-only event. They now made it as political as any UN discussion. Add the team of the non-existing country, Palestine, with east-Jerusalem as their non-existing capital, and you got yourself the most political non-political event.
I always saw sports, music and art as the languages we all understand; one of the symbols of Globalization, which brings us all together with common ground. Lately, these worlds of escapism are slowly fading away, blending with the real world and making no room for peace.
*At this point I would like to thank all the US networks and correspondents, as well as the Israeli ones, who showed their respect to the victims of the Munich massacre and held their own minute of silence.
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