IOC head honors slain Israelis in Olympic Village ceremony

(JTA) — International Olympic Committee head Jacques Rogge held a moment of silence in the Olympic Village to remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The moment of silence held Monday, before brief remarks by Rogge, is the first time that the slain athletes have been memorialized inside an Olympic Village.

But Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of two of the Israeli victims, told The Jerusalem Post that the ceremony was merely a public relations stunt and called it "shameful." They are set to hold a news conference in London on Wednesday to again call on the IOC to hold a moment of silence at the opening ceremony on Friday.

IOC executive board members, special guests, Olympic athletes and officials were on hand for Rogge’s remarks, which opened a ceremony marking the Olympic Truce, a U.N.-backed initiative calling for an end to hostilities during the two weeks of the Olympic Games.

Rogge has ignored calls from the athletes’ families, the governments of several countries, Jewish groups, President Obama and broadcaster Bob Costas for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics to mark the 40th anniversary of the murders. 

On Monday, Rogge said, "I would like to start today’s ceremony by honoring the memory of 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals and have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village. The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision. They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep that spirit alive and to remember them."

On Sunday, a ceremony to remember the slain Israelis was held in London near the Olympic village. London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a memorial plaque to the victims at the ceremony in Hackney.

"It is entirely right this morning that we should remember those events," Johnson said. "And today let us hope that these Olympic Games that we are holding in London this week, 40 years later, are not only happy and peaceful, and also that they will be remembered in years to come."

The ceremony was organized by Hackney Borough Councilman Linda Kelly and Martin Sugarman, chairman of the Hackney Anglo-Israel Friendship Association, according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

Efraim Zinger, the head of Israel’s delegation to the Games, also attended the ceremony.

"I hope we will be able to concentrate on the success of Israel’s athletes and not of stories like this," Zinger said, according to the Chronicle.

Also Sunday, the reiterated that there would be no moment of silence at the opening ceremony to mark the massacre, saying it is not the appropriate venue and that a ceremony would be held in a Munich airport in September, where most of the delegation was slain.

 
 

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