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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2012


Olympics' missed chance

Ilana Romano, left, and Ankie Spitzer, widows of two Israeli Olympians killed at the 1972 Games, in front of London’s Olympic village. Ilana Romano, left, and Ankie Spitzer, widows of two Israeli Olympians killed at the 1972 Games, in front of London’s Olympic village.

On Friday, the 2012 Olympic Games will open with a reported $40 million extravaganza, featuring 15,000 performers and 25,000 costumes under the orchestration of Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle. Mr. Boyle's production is rumored to include actor Daniel Craig (a.k.a. James Bond) jumping out of a helicopter and ringing a 30-ton bell, a landscape decorated with several dozen live animals, and dancers and trapeze artists dressed in Sergeant Pepper-like attire, cavorting to the Beatles' greatest hits.

Regrettably, though, the International Olympic Committee found that it could not spare 60 seconds to pay tribute to 11 athletes slain at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago.

For much of those 40 years, families of the slain members of the Israeli team have appealed to the IOC for a moment of silence at the Olympic Games. Ankie Spitzer, the widow of 1972 Israeli fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, gathered more than 100,000 signatures in support.

The White House and the Israeli Knesset, as well as representatives of the German and Italian governments, backed Ms. Spitzer's petition. Still, the IOC refused to schedule a minute of silence in its nearly three-hour opening ceremony.

IOC President Jacques Rogge explained that "the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident." Instead, Mr. Rogge attended a moment of silence this week in the Olympic village.

The IOC also plans to honor the Munich victims by participating in an Aug. 6 reception at London's Guildhall and attending a Sept. 5 ceremony at the airfield in Fuerstenfeldbruck, where much of the massacre, by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, took place.

But only 100 people attended Monday's little-publicized moment of silence. The Israeli Embassy, the Israeli Olympic Committee, and the Jewish community in London will put on the Aug. 6 event, and IOC participation will be minimal.

That same day, 22 gold medals will be awarded across eight sports, while events in 12 other sports take place, drawing attention away from whatever Mr. Rogge has planned for the Guildhall reception. The Zionist Federation will host the Sept. 5 ceremony, after the Olympics are over.

The Munich massacre was not just an Israeli tragedy; it was an Olympic tragedy and a world tragedy. Forty years after the awful event, the fallen athletes deserve to be honored at the opening ceremony, in front of 80,000 spectators and an estimated 4 billion TV viewers worldwide.

Mr. Rogge's priorities do no credit to the Olympic movement.

-- Washington Post

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