Munich silence ban: Rogge refuses to deny anti-Israel bias

By Jennifer Lipman, July 26, 2012
Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer

Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer

The two Munich massacre widows who came to London to plead with IOC president Jacques Rogge for a minute's silence at the London Games emerged devastated and heartbroken from their 30-minute meeting with him on Wednesday night.

A distraught Ankie Spitzer, who with Ilana Romano had presented a 105,000-signature petition to Mr Rogge at his London hotel, said: "For one moment I thought he was swaying and I pleaded with him: 'Do the right thing, the thing we all ask for'. I asked him: 'Is it because they were Israelis?' And he refused to answer."

Mrs Spitzer said: "We brought everything we had. We gave him a ladder and said, 'If you don't do a silence, at least say that terror is unacceptable'. We were calm. We told him we were bitterly disappointed. We can't believe he didn't take the lead on this. We hope that people will show him up on Friday.

"We were just about rolling over the table for him. We are outraged. We are so angry. We are sad. We could not believe it but he is not going to do it. He just came again with his little excuses. He said we had two different opinions. We said, 'You didn't hear the voice of the world'. He said, 'Yes, I did'."

The IOC president told the women that "maybe" the IOC would build a statue to the murdered athletes in Lausanne - an offer they dismissed. Mrs Romano said: "He lives in his tower at the IOC and he forgets where he comes from - the Games in 1972."

Forty years after her husband was murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Mrs Romano was still hopeful that the IOC would reconsider and officially commemorate the 11 slain Israeli athletes at the London opening.

"Until the last minute we'll keep our optimism," she said. She and Mrs Spitzer urged Londoners with tickets for the opening ceremony to stage their own protests, and asked journalists at the event to silence their microphones for one minute.

"If you believe that the 11 murdered athletes must be mentioned, stand for a spontaneous silence when Rogge speaks," said Mrs Romano.

Mrs Spitzer, who was 26 when she stood in "a room full of blood and holes in the walls where they had been shot at," listed the "excuses", she had heard from the IOC over the last 40 years, including that an official silence would bring politics into the games and that it would upset the Arabs.

"In London we are told that it is not in the protocol of the Opening Ceremony. I'm sure it is not in the protocol that our husbands went home in coffins," she said. "We just want them to be remembered as athletes, they don't have to say Israelis. As members of the Olympic family, they should be honoured at the Olympics."

Both women expressed their view that "discrimination" was behind the IOC's refusal.

"Our husbands and sons came from the wrong country and were the wrong religion," said Mrs Spitzer, pointing out that other memorials had been held to mark other Olympic tragedies.

"If it had happened to a different nation, would it be the same way?" said Mrs Romano. "The answer is no."

She said that by refusing to remember the victims of terror, Mr Rogge - who was at the Munich Games as an athlete - has "let terror win".

Israel's ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, said of the possibility of an 11th hour reconsideration: "After 40 years we have low expectations."

With Britain as host, now was the time for an official commemoration. "Both Britain and Israel know what it is like to be on the receiving end of terror. It is appropriate for the British people to stand side by side and say never again."

Both women believe the campaign has achieved something. "We have millions of supporters in this struggle and we will never stop until we get a minute's silence."

Last updated: 4:07pm, July 26 2012