An Olympian Silence

11 murdered Israeli Olympic athletes

11 murdered Israeli Olympic athletes

Forty years ago, at the 1972 Munich Olympics, 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

The families of the slain athletes have campaigned ever since for an official minute’s silence in their memory, and every Olympics they have been refused. The campaign has had a much wider resonance this year, perhaps because of the round number or perhaps simply because of the wider reach of the internet and social media.

In any event, the families repeated their request for a minute’s silence, and were once more rejected.

The families of the murdered athletes and their supporters are still hoping the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will change its mind and agree to hold an official commemoration on this, the 40thanniversary of the massacre. This will be the tenth Summer Olympics since Munich 1972, and the families would like either a moment of silence or a mention in the IOC president’s opening remarks.

According to Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Andre Spitzer, who, in 1972, was an Olympic fencing coach and one of the 11 victims of the terrorists, the IOC has been sympathetic. In the end, however, just as with the nine previous Summer Games, the Committee refused, saying they did not want to “annoy” Arab countries by mentioning the tragedy.

“They told us the Arab delegations will get up and leave, to which I said, ‘It’s okay; if they don’t understand what the Olympics are all about, let them leave,’” said Mrs. Spitzer, who has since remarried and now uses the name Ankie Rekhess-Spitzer. She is a correspondent based in Israel for Dutch and Belgian television.

“We want the IOC, with all 10,000 young athletes in front of them, to say, ‘Let’s not forget what happened in Munch.’ We want this for only one reason: so it will never happen again,” she said. “The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games.”

The IOC, she said, has insisted that even the moment of silence would “introduce politics” into the Olympics, an unwanted intrusion.


Some of the family members of the slain athletes are convinced the refusal lies in simple antisemitism. This year, that argument found ammunition in the list of participating countries posted on the official website of the 2012 London Olympics.

When the list first went up,Israel was shown as being located in “Europe” and it had no capital city. “Palestine,” on the other hand, was listed as being located in “Asia,” along with all other Middle Eastern countries, and its capital was “Jerusalem.”

On April 30, the website was changed, making Jerusalem the capital of both entries. According to some reports, the correction may have been the result of efforts by the online advocacy group, My Israel, whose members demanded it.


This is not to say there have been no memorials to the slain Israeli athletes. Every four years, before leaving for the Olympic Games, Israeli athletes pay homage at the graves of their 11 compatriots who were murdered in Munich.

In addition, each year, the Israeli Olympic Committee organizes a commemorative event, but it is never part of the official program.


This year in London, the Israeli-sponsored event will be held in the glittering, 800-year-old Guildhall …   As in all the years since the murders, IOC officials, including Dr. Rogge, will attend the unofficial memorial.

Read the rest of the article for details of the attack, the perpetrators and the victims.

Israel of course is furious at the IOC’s latest rejection of a request for a minute’s silence and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has taken up the gauntlet:

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who had called for the memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes, said Thursday: “Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest.”

CNN has more details about Ayalon’s challenge:

“We will not let this issue rest and we will be launching a concerted campaign to have the IOC reconsider their position,” Danny Ayalon posted on his Facebook page on Thursday. “All we ask for is ‘Just One Minute!'”

Ayalon repeatedly tweeted a plea for support early Friday, directing people to an online petition sponsored by a Ankie Spitzer, whose husband — fencing coach Andre Spitzer — was among those killed by the Palestinian terror group Black September.

Ayalon has also produced a one-minute video explaining Israel’s request.  (h/t Israellycool).

I suggest we all take up his suggestion of tweeting with the hashtag #justoneminute. And don’t forget to sign the online petition.

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