First official Olympic ceremony held in memory of Munich victims

The ceremony was held in the Place of Mourning, a memorial set up in the Olympic Village in Rio, two days prior to the opening ceremony of the 2016 Games.

August 4, 2016 02:28
2 minute read.

ILANA ROMANO (left) and Ankie Spitzer – widows of two of the murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics – attend yesterday’s memorial in Rio.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

After 44 years, the memory of the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was commemorated on Wednesday in an official ceremony organized by the International Olympic Committee.

The ceremony was held in the Place of Mourning, a memorial set up in the Olympic Village in Rio, two days prior to the opening ceremony of the 2016 Games.

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A “moment of reflection” will also be held during the closing ceremony.

The Place of Mourning was built to honor the memory of 15 people killed during Olympic Games. Besides the 11 Israelis, it also commemorates the German policeman who was killed in the failed rescue attempt in Munich, two victims of a bomb attack at the 1996 Atlanta Games and Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in an accident at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A long campaign led by Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of two of the murdered Israeli athletes, demanded that the IOC commemorate the Israelis in the opening or closing ceremony, but their pleas had fallen on deaf ears until the appointment of German Thomas Bach as IOC President in September 2013.

“We were very impressed with the design of the Place of Mourning. This is an historic moment,” said Romano. “This is an extremely emotional moment for us, one we have been waiting for since 1972. Our patience finally paid off. The memory of the 11 Munich victims has finally been acknowledged by the IOC.”

Bach participated in Wednesday’s ceremony and spoke of the importance of remembering “those who are no longer with us” before the Olympic festivities begin. Bach said the memorial was erected in the Olympic Village as that is where athletes from across the world live harmoniously.

Meanwhile, Israel’s representatives are continuing to make their way to Rio, with rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivken, runner Donald Sanford and Badminton player Misha Zilberman all departing from Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday.

Rivkin, who will be participating in her third Olympics at the age of 25, will be the delegation’s flag bearer at Friday’s opening ceremony and is looking forward to the occasion.

“It is always exciting to take part in the Olympics because this is an awesome event and the dream of every athlete,” said Rivkin. “Being the flag bearer is a huge responsibility and honor. Knowing that I’ve got the entire country behind me is amazing. I have to admit that I found it hard to sleep over recent days, but I’m remaining positive and the most important thing is to enjoy the experience.”

Sanford is hoping to make up for his frustrating memories from London 2012, when he had his shoes stolen shortly before his 400-meter heat.

“I’ve got a lot of shoes with me this time thanks to my sponsor,” he said. “These are my second Olympics and I’m excited I’m healthy and ready to run.”

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