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At Long Last: Olympics Memorial Ceremony For Munich Games Terror Victims To Be Held

It might not be the desired minute of silence at the opening ceremony, but finally there will be an official memorial ceremony of sorts for the Israeli athletes slain by palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games.

munich victimsForty-four years is a long time to wait for anything, but for Ankie Spitzer it has taken four decades to get the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to hold an official memorial for her husband.

Andre Spitzer was one of the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Games in Munich.

In the early hours of 5 September, Palestinian militants from the Black September group clambered over security fences at the Olympic Village, made their way to the Israelis’ quarters and took a group of them hostage.

It was an event that would change security at the Olympic Games forever.

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After years of struggle and letter-writing, Ankie Spitzer and the other victims’ relatives have the consolation of a memorial ceremony in the athletes’ village in Rio, where a memorial stone will be unveiled.

It also commemorates the two victims of a bin bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Games and Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in an accident at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The stone will also be displayed at the athletes’ village when the Games take place in Tokyo in 2020.

Mrs Spitzer, now 70 years old, remains determined. “We never will give up our hope that there will be a moment of silence at the opening ceremony,” she says.

That is because the event is watched by billions of people around the world and the perfect showcase for her message of remembering in order to make sure such tragedy never strikes again.

Yael Arad will not be drawn on why it has taken more than four decades for the Olympic family to formally pay tribute to 11 of its own, but like Ankie Spitzer, she regards the approach of new IOC President Thomas Bach as crucial.

The IOC told the BBC: “The creation of a mourning place was a recommendation stemming from the Olympic Agenda 2020”, which is where Thomas Bach outlined his vision for the future of the movement. Rio is his first Games as president.

Ankie Spitzer says she has asked for a minute of silence ever since the 1976 Games.

The request was turned down, and she says she was told it was “because then there were 21 Arab delegations and if they [the IOC] would do a memorial all these delegations would boycott, and they would go home”. There have been other “excuses” since.

The Olympic historian, Jules Boykoff, author of the recently-released Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics, says part of the explanation for the delay was “a guiding fiction that the IOC has long clung to – that politics and sports don’t mix”.

That paradigm has changed under Thomas Bach.

Mr Boykoff says there is no question a ceremony would be controversial for some of Israel’s political foes, but for the IOC there were also other reasons for keeping politics away from the Games.

“If they could keep politics, hot-button politics, off the agenda then they could focus on sport, and let’s be honest on the money-making that is attendant to the Olympics,” he says.

I suspect we will see a minute’s silence at the opening ceremonies of an Olympics well before the BBC stops referring to terrorists as “militants.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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