The International Olympic Committee officially rejected a request to hold a moment of silence for the Munich 11 at the London Olympics this summer.
The request to hold the moment of silence at the Opening Ceremonies was initiated by the families of the athletes. This summer will mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Israel has regularly requested a moment of silence for the Olympics every four years, and the IOC has consistently turned down that proposal.
“The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions. Within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away,” IOC President Jacques Rogge wrote in a letter dated May 15.
The Jewish Community Center of Rockland County, N.Y., a member of the JCC Association, and Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing Coach Andrei Spitzer, initiated an online petition in mid-April seeking a moment of silence at the London Games that has garnered some 38,000 signatures from around the world.
“The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games,” Spitzer wrote in a letter accompanying the petition.
The Israel National Olympic Committee will hold its own memorial ceremony during the games, as it has at every Olympics. Rogge pledged that IOC representatives would attend the ceremony.
“Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Thursday in a statement. “The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community. Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event.”
Rogge’s letter was in response to an official request filed by Ayalon last month.
The American Jewish Committee on Thursday called on the IOC to reconsider its rejection. “The 40th anniversary of that tragedy is a perfect opportunity for the Olympics to properly honor the memory of those innocent Israelis,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The IOC refusal to hold a moment of silence during the London games opening ceremony, which will be watched worldwide, is simply shameful.”
Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, both New York Democrats, and the Anti-Defamation League had in recent weeks also called on the IOC in letters to approve the moment of silence.