IOC head Jacques Rogge sent out a letter that did not mention the specific request, stating only that he would attend a memorial of the attack at London’s Guildhall, and that the Committee would send a representative to any event convened by Israel. “The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions,” Rogge wrote. He added that “within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away.”
The idea of requesting a moment of silence for the Jewish martyrs was initiated by two widows of the victims, and it was acted on last month when Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, wrote to the IOC with a formal appeal. “A minute of silence would send a clear message,” Ayalon wrote, “that we must not forget the terrible events of Munich 40 years ago so they will not be repeated.”
“Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable, as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest,” Ayalon further noted. “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.”
Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, reacted bluntly to the Olympic Committee’s brushing aside of the request. The IOC’s response was “a polite but very clear rejection,” Palmor said. “It’s a shame. The IOC is treating this as an internal Israeli matter but [the Munich massacre] is of concern to the whole Olympic family, it was an onslaught on the whole Olympic ideal.” The spokesman said further that “Perhaps the IOC thinks anything to do with Israel is controversial. It is not a display of great courage and integrity.”
A spokesman for the International Olympic Committee claimed that the group had worked in tandem with the Israeli National Olympic Committee on the planning of a ceremony at London’s Guildhall that would be “the most appropriate” fashion of commemorating the Munich massacre. He added that a memorial ceremony has been held at every Olympics since the tragedy.
The attack began during the early morning hours of September 5, 1972, when eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September infiltrated the Olympic village, and brazenly took eleven members of the Israeli team hostage. The terrorists demanded that Israel release 234 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages’ freedom. When the standoff came to an end later that night, all of the captured Israeli athletes and a German police officer had been killed, along with the five attackers. Despite the fact that television audiences worldwide were captivated by the hostage crisis, the IOC decided to only suspend the Games for several hours and continue them the following morning.
One of the murdered athletes was fencing coach Andre Spitzer, whose widow Ankie has lobbied for decades to schedule a minute of silence at the opening of each Olympic Games to memorialize the massacre. “For me the fight is not over until the opening ceremony,” Ms. Spitzer said “The IOC has said no for the last 40 years, but I’m still hopeful they will change their minds.” Minister Ayalon informed the two widows campaigning for the “moment” that the Foreign Ministry will mount its own appeal shortly intended to ultimately reverse the IOC’s current decision.