Was the only Israeli on the International Olympic Committee instrumental in stopping a tribute to the Munich 11 at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Games?
In the past few weeks, a war of words has erupted between the official, Alex Gilady, and the families of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games. They allege that his opposition hurt their cause.
Gilady actually covered the Munich Games for Israel TV and today is senior vice president of NBC Sports, where he focuses on international business. In 2006 he was inducted into Israel’s International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and was given a lifetime achievement award from the Hall.
The families failed in their bid for a minute of silence during the London Olympics opening ceremonies to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the terror attack. Their campaign could not persuade the IOC despite garnering more than 111,000 signatures on a petition from more than 105 countries, as well as support from President Obama and numerous other national leaders and legislators around the world.
Even after meeting with two of the Munich 11 widows, IOC President Jacques Rogge refused to budge on his opposition to the moment of silence.
Some Jewish activists point the finger directly at Gilady for the outcome.
“I believe he was part of the decision” not to go ahead, said Steve Gold, chair of the Munich 11 Minute of Silence Petition and vice president of the JCC Rockland in suburban New York. “By having an Israeli who’s on the IOC not supporting the minute of silence, it gave the IOC a bit more credibility.”
For his part Gilady, who refused to specifically discuss the issue with JTA, told Insidethegames.biz in May that when it came to the moment of silence, “The unity of the Olympic movement is the most important one” and “Therefore, I am not supporting such a move.” He added that “Such an act may harm the unity of the Olympics.”
Days before the London Olympics opened, Gilady told the Chicago Tribune that he was acting “in [the] best interest of Israeli sport. For me, the most important thing at the moment is that Israel have (sic) stages to compete on.” He recalled for the Tribune how Israel was thrown out of the Asian Olympic Association in 1981 and did not regain a continental sports affiliation until Rogge, among others, helped Israel become a member of the European Olympic Committees in 1994.
There would not be an “appropriate commemoration in the Olympic stadium,” Gilady told the Tribune, until “there is peace.”
Others, to put it lightly, disagree.
In a recent Foxnews.com piece that went viral, Guri Weinberg, son of the murdered wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, published his own account of a meeting with Gilady in Atlanta in 1996, two years after Gilady was appointed to the IOC and as that city was hosting the Olympics.
Weinberg, an actor who is in the cast of the next installment of the hit movie series “Twilight,” alleged that Gilady told him that any memorial for the Israelis would necessitate a similar one for the Palestinian terrorists who died in the attack.
As one of the Munich 11 widows recalled her husband’s torture and murder, Gilady listened “stone cold with no emotion,” then excused himself from the meeting “without a hint of empathy,” Weinberg wrote.
Asked about the article in a telephone interview with JTA, Gilady angrily quoted Rudyard Kipling’s 1895 classic poem “If.”
“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken,
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools …,” he said.
In denying Weinberg’s story, Gilady said, “The Fox News story was misquoted already 16 years ago.”
Weinberg did not reply to an interview request for this article, but Ilana Romano, widow of murdered weightlifter Yossef Romano, was at the Atlanta meeting. She told JTA that Weinberg’s account was accurate, although it was her and another widow, Ankie Spitzer, who walked out and not Gilady.
“We got up and went because he was so insulting and hurtful,” she said.
As for Gilady’s opposition to the minute of silence, she said, “I think it’s terrible idiocy. It’s a lack of consideration, a lack of respect for those who were murdered. It’s giving in to terror.”