Athletes murdered at Munich remembered en route to Beijing

"None of us will forget what happened there," Peres told relatives of the victims.

munich victims 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
munich victims 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
With all the excitement and anticipation that is part and parcel of being a member of Israel's Olympic team, the joy is always tinged with sorrow, as today's athletes paid tribute on Tuesday to the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Black September terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The Israel Olympic Committee maintains contact with the families of the victims and as in the past the Israel Olympic team visited the victims memorial in Tel Aviv before continuing on to Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem to receive the blessing of the President in advance of the upcoming Olympics. Ironically, only an hour or so before they arrived, there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem approximately a kilometer away from Beit Hanassi. President Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority were at the tail end of their luncheon meeting when they heard the news. Both instantly condemned the attack. Later at the farewell reception for the Israeli team, Peres, who is also going to China for the opening of the games, recalled the horror of Munich, where eleven Israelis sportsmen were murdered. "None of us will forget what happened there," Peres told relatives of the victims. Peres who has been asked to boycott the games on the grounds of China's deplorable human rights record and its treatment of the Tibetans, said that he was not going to China because of China's flaws but because of China's merits. The Beijing Olympics he noted would be the largest and most spectacular Olympic Games to date, with many world leaders attending, and it was an honor to have the head of state of a small country such as Israel invited. Contrary to usual practice, this year's Olympics, observed Peres, have a political overtone, which was one of the reasons that China was so keen for Israel to attend. Among the Israelis invited by the Chinese is former Israel ambassador to China Ora Namir who made such an enduring impression during her period of tenure that the Chinese are prepared to do almost anything to get her back. Both Peres and Israel Olympic Committee President Zvi Varshaviak were confident that the Israel Olympic team going to Beijing would bring honor to Israel and even a medal or two. With 42 athletes, it is the largest Israel Olympic team ever. This will be the 14th time that Israel will compete in the Olympics said Varshaviak, adding that up till now Israel had been represented by a total of 281 athletes. Team leader Efraim Zinger said that for the first time half the team would be female. He also noted that 60 percent of the athletes were competing in the Olympics for the first time, though shooter Guy Starik is competing for the fourth time. 11 team members are from the Former Soviet Union and one is from Ethiopia. There are also two Olympic medalists: judo champion Arik Zeevi, who won a bronze medal in Athens in 2004, and kayak champion Michael Kolganov, who won a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Kolganov will carry the Israeli flag at the opening ceremony in Beijing.