Israel underwhelmed by surprise Munich memorial

Families say unannounced minute of silence in London was a PR stunt aimed at deflecting criticism against IOC.

IOC President Jacques Rogge Olympics 390 (photo credit: Toby Melville / Reuters)
IOC President Jacques Rogge Olympics 390
(photo credit: Toby Melville / Reuters)
Israeli officials were underwhelmed Monday by a surprise tribute the International Olympic Committee paid at London's Olympic Village to the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich games.
A ceremony that nobody knew about or paid attention to is not what Jerusalem was looking for, said one diplomatic official.
The official said that Israel thought that 40 years after the Munich massacre it was time for a tribute to be paid at a central Olympic event, like the opening of the  games, and not at a side event as has been the case in years past.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has spearheaded efforts for a moment of silence at the opening game, something turned down by the International Olympic Committee.
One diplomatic official explained Israel's efforts, saying that the terrorism in Munich was not only a tragedy for Israel, but for the whole Olympic ideal and should be duly commemorated by the entire Olympic "family."
IOC President Jacques Rogge, who on Saturday had ruled out marking the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre at the London Games opening ceremony, led the surprise tribute at the Olympic village. marking the event for the first time in the Olympic village.
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Israeli officials had said that they wanted the event marked not at some side ceremony, but rather at the opening ceremony attended by tens of thousands of people and watched by hundreds of millions more around the globe.
Among those at Monday's ceremony were Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Olympic organizing committee, London Mayor Boris Johnson, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and several IOC officials.
"I would like to start today's ceremony by honoring the memory of 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals and have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village," said Rogge.
"The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision. They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep that spirit alive and to remember them."
Rogge said that while sport had the ability to unite, it could not solve all the world's problems.
"As the event of 40 years ago reminds us, sport is not immune from, and cannot cure, all the ills of the world."
A minute of silence was observed after his comments
Following the ceremony London Mayor Johnson pumped his fist and said: "Great speech."
"It was a spontaneous suggestion," Rogge told a small group of reporters after his speech. "This is indeed the first time that it has happened in the Olympic village."
Rogge said his decision to mark that anniversary in such a way was not aimed at ending calls for a minute's silence during the opening ceremony.
"The intention was not to calm anyone," he said.
Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of Israeli athletes slain by Palestinians terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, told The Jerusalem Post they were outraged by  the ceremony calling it a ruse intended to deflect criticism against the IOC.
"He is trying to do the bare minimum," said Romano over the phone, referring to Rogge. "This is shameful."
Spitzer and Romano, who will board a flight to London on Tuesday, speculated the last-minute ceremony was a bid to preempt a press conference they plan to hold on Wednesday where they will reiterate their demand that their loved ones be honored at the opening ceremony this Friday.
"He tried to pull the rug from under our feet, but we still have a few things to say," said Romano.
Spitzer added: "This is not the right solution, to hold some ceremony in front of 30 or 40 people. We asked for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony not for someone to mumble something in front of a few dozen people."
Meanwhile, members of the the Israeli delegation to the Olympics continued to arrive in London ahead of the start of the Games this Friday.
Members of the Jewish community of London were hard at work on Monday preparing to greet ready about a dozen or so Israeli athletes at the airport the following day.
"[The scouts] prepared placards wishing them luck," said Polly Bronstein, a Jewish Agency and Israeli scouting movement emissary. "The Olympics is an excellent platform to connect kids with Israel."
She said she had bought over 120 tickets for scouts and their parents to watch judoka Alice Schlesinger compete.
Security surrounding the Israeli delegation has been ratcheted up after a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last week. Over the past year several attempts to attack Jewish and Israeli interests around the world in places like Kenya, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Georgia have been foiled. Israel has accused Iran and Hezbollah of being behind the planned attacks.