Continuing row over minute's silence for murdered Munich athletes

By Jessica Elgot, July 12, 2012
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The International Olympic Committee has insisted that no change has been made over the decision not to hold a minute’s silence at the opening ceremony of London 2012 for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Games in 1972.

Rumours were rife this week that a change of heart could be on the cards regarding a commemoration at an official Olympic ceremony.

The London Games chair, Lord Coe, told staff at the London Assembly he would hold a “personal moment” for the athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists, but did not elaborate on what that meant. Joanna Manning-Cooper, head of PR at London 2012, said Lord Coe was not free to clarify further, but said he had been “available for seven years” before the final Olympic weeks.

Last month, the London Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a commemoration for Munich at the Games. Labour MLA Andrew Dismore, who proposed the motion, said the IOC had begun “behaving like a cuckoo in the nest in London; they forget that they are our guests in our city. They throw their weight around and trample on everyone in sight.”

He said London leaders like Mayor Boris Johnson had “rolled over” when the IOC declined the request for a silence. “It’s very clear if it was anyone other than Israeli athletes then there would be a commemoration.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “The mayor fully supports a commemoration as an official part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. Preparations for such an event, at Guildhall on August 6, are in hand.” (This event has been organised by Israel and the London Jewish community.)

Ynon Kreiz, who has led fundraising events in the UK for the Israel Olympic squad, said: “Not commemorating the fallen athletes goes against the Olympic spirit, where human values are above all. This has nothing to do with politics. The world has to unite and denounce any act of violence, all the more so one committed during the Olympic Games and inside the Olympic village, targeting Olympic athletes.”

Ankie Spitzer, widow of murdered Israeli Olympic fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, has launched a campaign, backed by Israeli president, Shimon Peres, to encourage those attending the opening ceremony to mark the event themselves.

She told the JC: “We are trying to reach as many opening ceremony visitors as possible and are asking them to stand up when [IOC president] Jacques Rogge starts to speak. Even if there are only a few thousand, it would be significant.”

The Zionist Federation is launching a worldwide viral campaign for a minute’s silence on the morning of the opening ceremony, at 11 am on July 27, and will run a short memorial service on www.zionist.org.uk at 10.45 am.

A plaque to commemorate the murdered athletes will be unveiled in east London on July 22. The ceremony has been organised by Ajex’s Martin Sugarman and Hackney councillor, Linda Kelly. The London mayor is expected to attend, along with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Efraim Zinger, chair of the Israeli Olympic Committee.

Last updated: 11:25am, July 12 2012