Although close to four hours in length, Friday evening’s opening ceremonies for the London Olympics ignored the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Games in Munich despite widespread calls for a moment of silence to mark 40 years.
Nevertheless, more than 20,000 people at various venues in London on Friday attended the British Zionist Federation’s “Minute for Munich” program that was promoted via social media.
A short memorial service at the Israel Embassy that was organized by the British Zionist Federation was streamed live online Friday, where federation chairman Harvey Rose lashed out at the International Olympic Committee for its decision.
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“Shame on the IOC for not appreciating and recognizing what the Olympics is all about.... Shame on the IOC for its clear anti-Israel bias,” he said. About 200 people marked the Minute for Munich in London’s Trafalgar Square, reciting memorial prayers and lighting memorial candles. Afterwards, they waved British and Israeli flags in front of media outlets covering the event.
“The British Jewish community is showing its solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel,” the British Israel Coalition’s Ari Soffer told the crowd, according to the Jewish Chronicle. “We should not allow this tragedy to go uncommemorated. This is a time to show our respect and remember the dead.”
The families of the victims mounted a global campaign for an official IOC moment of silence at the Games. The IOC continues to reject the call despite its endorsement by the Israeli government, US President Barack Obama, Republican presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the US Senate, the German Bundestag, the Canadian and Australian parliaments, about 50 members of the British parliament and several Jewish organizations worldwide.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said she would stand at the Games’ opening ceremony to protest the IOC’s refusal to hold a minute of silence.
As the Israeli Olympians marched in during the opening ceremony, commentator Bob Costas told his NBC audience that 40 years ago, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympics.
Costas, who has called the IOC’s decision not to hold an official moment of silence “insensitive,” said that while IOC president Jacques Rogge held a moment of silence at the Athletes’ Village for about 100 people, “still, for many, tonight with the world watching is the true time and place to remember those who were lost and how and why they died.”
Almost 27 million Britons watched the opening ceremony on Friday, trumping viewership figures for last year’s royal wedding and underscoring a growing sense of excitement as London hosts the Olympics for the third time.
Around the globe, approximately one billion people were reported to have watched director Danny Boyle’s celebration of British history and culture, the UK government said on Saturday.
The domestic audience peaked at 26.9 million during a section featuring dancing doctors and nurses in a tribute to Britain’s state-funded National Health Service, according to figures from the BBC.
Britons showed plenty of stamina during the show, which began at 9 p.m. local time. More than 19 million were still watching when the Olympic flame was lit at half past midnight.
The television audience for last year’s wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton peaked at 26.3 million when the couple reached the altar in Westminster Abbey, according to industry data. The royal wedding was shown on several British channels while the BBC has exclusive rights to the Olympics.
Britain has spent around nine billion pounds ($14.1 billion) to build and stage the Games, last held in the city in 1948.
Some Britons have questioned the cost at a time of deep cuts in government spending while fears over security and transport furthered tempered enthusiasm for the world’s biggest sporting event. However, the mood appeared to lift as the Games finally got under way after seven years of preparation.