With the much-anticipated 2012 Summer Games soon to kick off in London, Canada
already deserves a gold medal for an Olympic-related action off the field. An
action that should be the source of great pride for all those who still
subscribe to the original, albeit tarnished, ideals of the Olympic
A few weeks ago, Canada became the first country to officially
call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to hold a minute of silence at
the Games in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian
terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The vote in Parliament, passed
unanimously, came after two Canadian cabinet ministers wrote to IOC president
Jacques Rogge in support of a formal commemoration of the murdered sportsmen on
the 40th anniversary of the massacre.
Since Israel made its request to
the IOC in April on behalf of families of the victims, a growing number of
people around the world have raised their voices for such a long-overdue
gesture. In late June, others followed Canada’s lead as the US Senate and the
Australian House of Representatives both unanimously passed resolutions calling
on the IOC to reverse its position. Germany’s foreign minister also weighed in
So far, the IOC will have none of it.
Over the years,
it has steadfastly refused proposals from the athletes’ relatives for a minute
of silence at the Games, saying it would politicize the Games. This despite
politics often being inextricably linked to the Olympics. At the 2008 and 2004
Olympics, Iran and Syria ordered their athletes not to compete against their
Israeli counterparts in protest against the Jewish state, without the IOC doing
anything. At the 2002 Winter Olympics, the IOC allowed the US team to walk in
the Opening Ceremonies with a flag recovered from the ruins of the 9/11
terrorist attack on New York. In 1936, the IOC allowed Hitler to stage-manage
the Berlin Games to glorify Nazi Germany.
It’s also worth noting the IOC
has previously remembered deceased Olympic athletes during the Games. Two years
ago at the Vancouver Olympics, a moment of silence was held during the opening
ceremony for a Georgian luge competitor who had died during a training
The IOC’s position on the Israeli athletes is a travesty of the
values it purports to uphold. It’s consistent with the organization’s
time-honored hypocrisy and corruption, and its draconian, Orwellian copyright
enforcement. The IOC’s stance begs the question: how much is related to the fact
that those who would be commemorated are Israeli? Is the IOC more worried about
the reaction of Arab and other Islamic nations than with showing basic decency?
WITH ITS greedy servitude to corporate money and political interests including
some of the world’s most murderous dictatorships, the IOC seems to have
forgotten that its priority is supposed to be the athletes.
disgrace adds to the litany of IOC transgressions spanning
Little wonder there’s so much disillusionment over the Olympics
and cynicism at the sight of the shamelessly over-commercialized five
As journalist Rosie Dimanno wrote so trenchantly in a recent
column in The Toronto Star: “Four decades after the Munich Massacre, the Lords
of the Rings continue to act as if 11 Israelis were never murdered by
Palestinian terrorists smack in the middle of their gaudy sports spectacle – an
atrocity that was not allowed to interfere with those 1972 Games, which
proceeded as if nothing untoward had happened.
Through nine Summer
Olympiads since, the IOC has staunchly refused to hold any official observance
for the slain Israelis. They talk a good game – the global community of
athletes, the spirit of brotherhood and peaceful competition – but it is hokum,
the mendacity of satraps with selective amnesia and slippery
It’s heartening to see such moral outrage mounting. With the
clock ticking down to the Opening Ceremony in London on July 27, an
international movement is now gaining ground to get the IOC to reverse its
position. In addition to a global online petition that’s attracted 89,000
signatures and counting, public officials in half-a-dozen countries have come
out in favor of the commemoration of Israeli athletes at the Opening Ceremony.
With any luck, it will move the IOC to finally see the light and do the right
thing. It would make for what would likely be the most poignant, most dignified
minute at the London Olympics.
The writer, a former journalist in Israel,
France and Canada, is the director of Communication and Public Affairs at Roots
Canada in Toronto.