The Prince Arthur Herald

The IOC’s shameful stance on the Munich Massacre

The House of Commons recently adopted a unanimous motion offering its support for a “moment of silence to be held at the 2012 London Olympics in memory of those killed 40 years ago in the tragic terrorist events of the 1972 Munich Olympics wherein 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.” The IOC commemorates the event on their website and acknowledges the “ghastly acts of terror carried out by terrorist group Black September,” yet refused to hold a moment of silence for the slain athletes at the Opening Ceremonies.

Political posturing aside, there is a very simple argument to be made for commemorating the athletes at the Opening Ceremonies. This event is the single most tragic event to ever occur at the Olympics. Even Iran, a country which refused to allow its athletes to participate with Israelis, now allows them to do so. The head of Iran’s Olympic Mission also agreed to respect a minute of silence for the slain Munich athletes.

Jacques Rogge, the IOC President, claimed that the “opening ceremony is an atmosphere not fit to remember such a tragic incident.” During the Vancouver Olympics, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who crashed on a training course prior to the Games, was remembered at the Opening Ceremonies. The World Trade Center attacks and the Siege of Sarajevo were both commemorated, despite having no direct connection to the Olympics. The IOC also allowed a video tribute to be paid to the fifty-two people killed in the London suicide bombings.

There is no legitimate reason not to honour the fallen Israelis. They were part of an official delegation to the Olympics. Memorials of the slain are not political events. They are emotional, help bring closure to the families of the slain, and pay respect to the dedication and hard work of those whose lives were so tragically cut short. Shannon Owens from the Orlando Sentinel puts this simply: “Honoring a life is not a political act. It’s an act of humanity.” Irwin Cotler, MP, also points out that the negligence on the part of Olympic security officials played a part in the killings.

What is the true reason for the lack of commemoration for the past forty years at the Olympics? The widows of the murdered had the same question. They pleaded with Rogge to change his mind and asked him whether the reason for his decision was because the slain were Israelis. He provided no reply. The chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, Jibril Rajoub, thanked the IOC for refusing to hold the moment of silence, writing that “sport is a bridge for love, unification and for spreading peace among the nations. It must not be a cause for divisiveness and for the spreading of racism.” Failing to honour the fallen is the true cause of divisiveness, as it violates the Olympian spirit of brotherhood and unity.

The IOC is apparently worried about the politicization of the Games. Palestine was recognized by the IOC in 1995, despite not being officially recognized as a country. Rosie DiManno, a Toronto Star columnist, argues that this act was inherently political. Robert Sarner argues in the National Post that the IOC did nothing when Iran and Syria ordered their athletes not to compete against Israelis. This act was political and also undermined the spirit of the Olympics. The IOC’s Vice-President, in an interview, states that the IOC fears an Arab boycott should a remembrance occur. Many Jewish columnists believe the boycott threat was a bluff, citing the Palestinian desire to fly its flag at the Olympics. Ray Hanania, a Palestinian columnist, argues the push for commemoration is intended to be more of a slap in the face for Palestinian rights than an effort to remember the victims. References to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lack legitimacy in this context. If the Olympics are truly depoliticized, this failing to recognize the dead in a public, globally-watched forum is immoral. As is most likely the case, if the Olympics are politicized, the IOC is showing tremendous bias by recognizing Palestine and refusing to punish delegations which would not compete against Israel.  This lack of commemoration can be seen as part and parcel of the IOC’s anti-Israel bias.

David Efune suggested focusing the Minute’s Silence campaign at the Olympic sponsors, asking them to withdraw support from the Olympics for this injustice. He argues that the IOC was faced with a decision between morals and interests, and chose to reject the moral option. If corporate sponsors withdrew financial support, Arab countries would be required to either “observe the moment in concert with the world’s civilized nations or display their bare faced racism to all.” The Olympic Charter contains the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, which prevent any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise. The IOC has been rightfully banning athletes who make racist remarks and undermine the spirit of the Games. But given its past decisions, it is ironic that the IOC does not subject itself to the same standards. It did a great injustice to the global community in failing to recognize the murdered Israeli athletes at the Opening Ceremonies.


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