Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Majadele with Varshaviak
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin

Remembering Munich in Beijing

Memorial event for Israeli athletes murdered in 1972 Games draws considerable attendance, but also considerable gaffes. Widows of slain athletes call on International Olympic Committee to recognize massacre as inseparable part of Olympic history

BEIJING – In keeping with the tradition established in 1976 at the Montreal Games, the Israeli delegation to Beijing held a memorial service on Monday in honor of the victims of 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.


The ceremony drew considerable attendance, and several high-profile figures came to pay their respects to the memories of the 11 athlete, including members of the current Israeli Olympic delegation, chairmen of the Israeli Olympic Committee, Israel's representative to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Israel's ambassador to China Amos Nadai, and Minister of Science, Culture and Sport, Raleb Majadele.



The ceremony in Beijing (Photo: Mickey Sagi)


Also present was the former IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch.


Samaranch, who during his lengthy tenure as president refused to recognize the victims as part of the heritage of the Games and address their deaths in the various opening ceremonies throughout the years, said: "This murder is the blackest event in the history of the Olympics. It is good to see that despite this Israel continues to move forward and grow, as a nation in general and in regards to its sports in particular."


"We will not allow terror to triumph," the first of the speakers, Israel Olympic Committee President Zvi Varshaviak, said. "The heinous murder in the Olympic village in Munich happened only because of the Israeli identity of those who were killed, but all the athletes that followed them, and all those here, continue their path."


Minister Majadele unfortunately began his speech with a slight arithmetic gaffe that induced a few cringes in the hall, saying "it has been 35 years since the disaster in Munich…"


But his was not the only blunder. Honorary Secretary Arie Rosenzweig mistakenly upgraded Arik Zeevi's 2004 bronze medal to a gold, and introduced marathon runner Haile Satayin, a longtime Israeli citizen, as "a new immigrant from Ethiopia."


'Ban countries who won't race Israel'

But faux pas aside, there were also speeches laden with meaning. The widows of weightlifter Yosef Romano and fencing coach Andre Spitzer, Ilana and Ankie, lit a memorial candle on behalf of the bereaved families before taking the podium and lashing out at the IOC.


"For us the Olympics are not a joyous occasion, but an event that takes us back to that dreadful day," said Romano. "It moves me to tears to look at the current Israeli delegation, but we still call on the International Olympic Committee to recognize those murdered as sons of the Olympic movement. Alex (Giladi), I ask of you to do everything so that they will be recognized by the (IOC), so that the five Olympic rings will be emblazoned on this ceremony."


Also in attendance, Avraham Grant (Photo: Mickey Sagi, Beijing)


Spitzer, who spoke in English, joined Romano's plea: "Though it has been 36 years, for us it seems like yesterday. The day we walked into the rooms in the Olympic village and saw their blood, the place where our loved ones spent their last hours. This is not just an Israeli matter, it is global.


"I call on Jacques Rogge (current IOC president), you were at Munich as an

athlete, it must be remembered at the opening ceremony. Countries whose delegates refuse to compete against Israelis should not be included at the Olympics, it goes against its spirit.


""We feel (the tribute) has to be in the framework of the Olympics because they were part of the Olympics family. They were not just people who came to visit the Olympics." Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer, told reporters.


פרסום ראשון: 08.19.08, 07:23
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