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The 2004 Olympics at Ceremony for Munich Victims, Widow Presses for Official Recognition

August 23, 2004
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Several political and sports dignitaries attended a memorial service held here for the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Summer Olympics at Munich. But the widow of one of the Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Games stole the show at the Israeli ambassador’s residence.

In her speech, Ankie Spitzer pressed Dr. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, to hold a memorial for those killed as part of the Olympic Games.

“Dr. Rogge, you were an Olympian in Munich, you were the brother of the 11 murdered athletes. All of you were part of this great Olympic family,” said Spitzer, whose husband, fencing coach Andre Spitzer, was among the 11 killed. “Then why is it that tonight we are standing here at the Israeli ambassador’s residence. We should have this memorial in front of all athletes sponsored by the IOC, because this is not an Israeli issue. This concerns the whole Olympic family.”

! Many of the nearly 300 people in attendance at the Aug. 19 service gave Spitzer a standing ovation.

After Spitzer spoke, Rogge, who competed in yachting at the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics, took the podium.

He told the audience that he “was one of the 7,000 athletes representing 121 countries in what should have been a festival of sport, of humankind and friendship. But these games were sent into darkness. The fifth of September, 1972, changed the face of the Olympic movement and the Olympic Games forever.”

Rogge discussed typical Olympic themes — brotherhood, friendship and the need to keep politics out of the Games — but did not respond to Spitzer’s request to remember the slain athletes at the Games themselves.

“I was very disappointed” in Rogge’s speech, Spitzer told JTA after the service.

But she admitted that Rogge’s presence at the ceremony, the first time a sitting president had attended such a ceremony since the Munich Games, “was a step i! n the right direction.”

Rogge was not the only dignitary in att endance. Prince Albert of Monaco, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyanni, Greece’s interior minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Israeli Cabinet minister Limor Livnat, were there, as well as the former president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

First to the podium was Tzvi Hashivian, the president of the Israel Olympic Committee. Hashivian made it clear that terror will never deter Israeli sports.

Said Hashivian: “We swore in Munich that we will continue participating in sport events all over the world and we do so, showing to terror that they did not kill our athletic spirit.”

The world was again reminded of the way politics is interwoven into the Olympic Games last week in Athens, when an Iranian athlete refused to fight his Israeli competitor in judo.

Hashivian was followed by Yakov Arar, the chief rabbi of Greece, who recited the Mourners Kaddish for the athletes.

On Sept. 5, 1972, the athletes were taken hostage by members of the Pale! stinian Black September terrorist group. The terrorists killed their hostages during a botched rescue attempt by German police at the Furstenfeldbruck military airport.

Israel’s ambassador to Greece, Ram Aviram, was pleased with the ceremony. “The event was marked by the Greek government in a very honorable way. The perception in Greece, along with the other free nations of the world, is that terror must be fought in all of its forms.”

For her part, Spitzer vowed to press on.

“When we went to Montreal four years after Munich and asked for a memorial we were laughed at,” she said. “We have suggested the minimum of one minute of silence without even mentioning that they were Israelis or Jews, but nothing happened. Yet we will go on until we succeed.”

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