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Olympic snub

  • Article by: JOHN RASH
  • Star Tribune
  • May 23, 2012 - 9:53 PM

Last week's Olympic flame-lighting event in Athens was obscured by the meltdown of the Greek political and fiscal systems.

But the games will go on. For sports fans, London's opening ceremonies on July 27 can't come soon enough. And even those apathetic about athletics might welcome a fortnight of forgetting about crises in the euro zone and elsewhere.

But while the Olympics offer a diversion from worldly woes, they are not an escape from them.

In fact, they're often defined by politics: Jesse Owens running over Hitler's Aryan ideal in Berlin in 1936; U.S. track medalists saluting black power in Mexico City in 1968, or back-to-back Soviet boycotts in 1980 and 1984.

And then there were the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group, infiltrated an Olympic dormitory, killed two Israeli athletes, and held others hostage. After a 20-hour standoff, nine additional Israelis, five Palestinians and a German police officer were killed in a chaotic rescue attempt at the Munich airport.

Worldwide, riveted viewers witnessed the unfolding horror.

To mark the 40-year anniversary, the Israeli government, on behalf of Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of two of the slain Israelis, officially requested that the International Olympic Committee hold a minute of silence at the London games. Unfortunately, the IOC rejected the request.

In a letter to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, IOC President Jacques Rogge said, "We strongly sympathize with the victims' families and understand their lasting pain. The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions and will continue to do so in close coordination with the National Olympic Committee of Israel."

It's true that the IOC has previously paid tribute to the slain Israelis, but if it really wanted to educate young people, it would use the worldwide stage not only to remember the victims but to reaffirm that the civilized world resoundingly rejects the nihilism of terrorism.

"This rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations," Orli Gil, consul general of the Israeli Consulate in Chicago wrote in an e-mail. "This is a very disappointing approach, and we hope that this decision will be overturned so the international community as one can remember, reflect and learn the appropriate lesson from this dark stain on Olympic history."

Forty years ago, a shaken nation heard ABC's Jim McKay confirm the deaths with three memorable words: "They're all gone."

Gone, yes. But they shouldn't be forgotten. Ever.


John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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