by Justin Cohen, News Editor
After agonising 43-year campaign for Olympic memorial to Israelis killed at 1972 Games, could this finally be…JUSTICE AT LAST?
The 43-year wait for a fitting public tribute to the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre appeared to finally be over this week after one of the murdered athletes’ widows revealed a “moment of reflection” would be held during the opening or closing ceremony at next summer’s Rio Games.
However, hours later the international Olympic Committee released a statement suggesting this “moment” would merely be a general opportunity for the millions watching to remember those they’ve lost.
A statement sent by IOC member Alex Gilady to Jewish News said: “It has been decided to devote a moment during the Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games to allow everybody in the stadium, as well as those watching at home, to remember loved ones who have passed away.”
It came after Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andre was among 11 who lost their lives in the darkest moment in Olympic history, said she had been in contact with President Thomas Bach directly and hailed the move as “justice for the victims who will finally be remembered in the framework of the Olympics. Nothing like this has happened before and it was the IOC’s initiative”.
Spitzer also praised the input of new IOC president Thomas Bach for making “all the difference”, although she said the families were still pushing for a tribute at the opening ceremony as they have always called for.
“We hope he will find a time to include a tribute in the opening ceremony as that’s when 10,000 athletes are on the field,” said Spitzer. While they are optimistic about the opening ceremony, she said “thousands of people” were ready to campaign if the IOC’s final plans – which could be revealed next month – leave the families disappointed.
A memorial area will also be established in the Rio Olympic village throughout the Games, where she claims the names of the 11 will be engraved for the first time.
The IOC statement said: “We have agreed to create a mourning place during the period of the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. The chosen spot will allow athletes and all those in the village to mourn those who have passed away, in a special and dignified way.
“The executive board intends to inaugurate this mourning place with a special ceremony that will give the opportunity to remember, in particular, those people who have died at the Olympic Games.”
While there was an event in the London Olympic village attended by Bach’s predecessor’s Jacques Rogge, it was held before the arrival of the Israeli delegation and this looks set to be the most significant tribute to the athletes from the IOC to date.
However, the confusion over the closing ceremony now threatens to open up fresh tensions between the IOC and Spitzer, who claims calls through the years for a tribute during the opening ceremony had been met variously with claims she was trying to mix politics and sport and even that it was too early, despite the passage of decades.
Meanwhile, Spitzer also revealed that a museum and permanent memorial will be created in Munich, within the site of the 1972 Olympic village and metres from Connolly Street where the victims were held hostage.. “It will include the history of what happened and biographies of the victims. There had been a lot of opposition but finally we’ve pushed it through. The cornerstone will be laid in November.”