Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Thursday criticized the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to reject his request to hold a minute silence during the upcoming London Olympic Games, in memory of the 11 Israeli Olympic team members murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest,” Ayalon said in a statement released. “The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community. Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event.”
Ayalon had sent a letter to IOC President Jacque Rogge a few weeks ago, in support of the request by Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano (widows of two of the murdered athletes) for the minute silence. “Perhaps the darkest chapter in modern Olympic Games history,” Ayalon wrote in his letter to the IOC, “is the moment where eleven Israelis, who came to compete in the greatest global sporting event, were murdered simply because of their nationality. We must remain vigilant against acts of hate and intolerance that stand in contrast to the ideals of the international Olympics.” To this end, Ayalon wrote, he “fully supports” Mrs. Spitzer and Romano in their call for a moment of silence, and reiterated the call for the IOC to “grant this wish.”
Rogge, in his response, made no actual mention of the call for a minute of silence, sidestepping the issue by writing: “Traditionally, the Israeli NOC [National Olympic Committee] hosts a reception in memory of the victims during the Games period, and the IOC is always strongly represented. The upcoming Games in London will be no exception.”
Despite brushing off the request, Rogge said, “please be assured that, within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away.”
Ayalon lamented that “[t]his rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations. This is a very disappointing approach and we hope that this decision will be overturned so the international community as one can remember, reflect and learn the appropriate lesson from this dark stain on Olympic history.”
Ayalon transmitted Rogge’s rejection to the families and widows of the murdered athletes, informing them that the Foreign Ministry will initiate a campaign in the coming weeks to encourage the IOC to reverse its decision.