Munich enters Olympic bid, relatives want memorial

President of Israel Olympic Committee: Int'l Olympic Committee says it doesn't want to mix politics and sport or offend Arab participants.

January 11, 2011 21:28
4 minute read.
Munich enters Olympic bid, relatives want memorial

olympic torch lit 224 88. (photo credit: )


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Widows of victims of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre and the Israel Olympic Committee on Tuesday vowed to continue their fight for an opening ceremony memorial service for the 11 Israelis killed in the terrorist attack, hours after it was announced that Munich had officially entered a bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For decades the families of the 11 Israeli sportsmen killed in the attack by the Black September Palestinian terrorist organization have waged a campaign for the International Olympic Committee to hold a memorial service during the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. The IOC has repeatedly denied their requests, telling them they don’t want to mix politics and sport or offend the participants from Arab and Muslim states.

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Zvi Vashaviak, president of the Israel Olympic Committee, said that “every Olympics we request a special ceremony and unfortunately they don’t answer our request.

Every time we ask for it to be part of the opening ceremony and they tell us that if they hold such a ceremony the 40 Muslim countries will disrupt the ceremony.”

Vashaviak added that the Israel Olympic Committee has excellent relations with the German committee and that he believes that if Munich wins the bid, it will agree to hold the ceremony.

Anke Spitzer, widow of Israel fencing coach Andre Spitzer, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that if requests to have the ceremony at the beginning of the games aren’t answered positively, they will work toward making sure the Bavarian city doesn't win the bid.

“You don’t understand how much we’ve done over the years and where we’ve flown and begged and pleaded in order to have this ceremony happen, and they always tell us the same answer: This is a political act,” she said.

“I say this is not a political act. These were are people who came to take part in a sporting event and returned home in coffins.”

The 64-year-old Spitzer, who has worked for the past 16 years as a Middle East correspondent for Dutch and Belgian TV channels (VRP) and (NOS), said, “It’s not that I’m bored and have nothing else to do, it will happen and I know it. They can’t get rid of us, they’ve tried so hard, but they see we’re still around.”

She related how she attended the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where she met with the German delegation at their complex. She said that she was told by delegates that “the people of Munich feel short-changed, that they lost an Olympics because of what happened [in 1972]. We told them we lost a little more than this.”

Spitzer added that at every Olympics since 1972 a memorial has been held by the Israeli delegation and the local Jewish community, but that she and the other relatives of the victims demand an official memorial at the opening ceremony because their loved ones “weren’t tourists who happened to walk by, they were part of the Olympic family that was there.”

Spitzer said that the campaign is part of two battles she has waged since 1972, the other being a successful legal campaign to have German authorities admit to failures that led to the botched rescue operation in which nine of the 11 sportsmen were killed.

On Tuesday, she vowed that if her campaign isn’t successful, her children will carry on in her footsteps.

“If I’m not alive, my children will come, they will keep fighting this fight,” she said.

Over the years, Spitzer has been joined in the campaign by Ilana Romano, the 64- year-old widow of weightlifter Yosef Romano. The Libya-born Romano was one of the first two athletes killed in the massacre, gunned down after he slashed one terrorist with a knife and stole his AK-47.

Romano said she isn’t bothered by the possibility of the Olympics returning to Munich, saying “the opposite, it will remind people of the victims and of what happened.”

Romano added: “I absolutely believe that Munich is a very painful place for us, for families to walk there again and see the Olympics there again it will reopen old wounds. But, for the memory of the victims, this is the place where the ceremony must be held and someone with the courage to make it happen must step forward and do so.”

Romano said she has been to Munich a number of times since 1972, on average every five years for official memorial ceremonies, including in 2002 when she joined a delegation of around 40 people who came from Israel for the 30th anniversary ceremony.

“Our only goal is that their memory not be forgotten,” Romano said. “This is my moral obligation, to go there and see this dream come true.”

Also bidding for the games are Annecy, France, and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The IOC will inspect the sites in the three cities in February and March and the host city will be announced on July 6 in Durban, South Africa.

If Munich wins, it would be the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympics.

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