Voice of the Jewish News: Olympics opportunity

Voice of the Jewish News: Olympics opportunity

The memorial to 11 Israeli athletes and coaches was a major step forward, but more can be done to educate still

Ankie Spitzer embracing someone at the memorial to those who were murdered in 1972
Ankie Spitzer embracing someone at the memorial to those who were murdered in 1972

Many of us will spend the next weeks willing our sporting heroes to run, jump, ride, serve and shoot their way to Olympic gold.

It won’t feel quite the same as the halcyon days of 2012 — it’ll take far more than a journey down the Northern Line to get to the nearest action, and even if Boris finds his way to Rio, he’ll no doubt stay clear of any zip wire.

Nevertheless the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah will have a much-needed chance to briefly unite the country and boost our national pride; we wish them and the other athletes, including Team Israel, a triumphant Games.

But the Rio Games will also be remembered for something bigger than sport. For decades Ankie Spitzer and other family members of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Games have fought for a minute’s silence at the opening ceremony – recognition of the fact their loved ones were part of the Olympic family, taken prematurely from them during the Games in Munich.

Yesterday, 44 years after the darkest moment in Olympic history, the IOC offered its most significant and high-profile tribute yet with a ceremony addressed by President Thomas Bach and attended by family members, journalists and current athletes.

It was welcomed by the families as a major step forward.

But Bach can do more. By ensuring the names of the Israeli athletes and coaches are read out at the closing ceremony, he has the opportunity to right a wrong that has blighted the Olympic movement for too long. In front of a TV audience of many millions, he can promote the Olympic goal of educating younger generations by highlighting what happened in the past in order to tackle hate. That’s all the families have ever wanted.

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