Israelis honor slain 1972 Olympians

  • Article by: ROB HARRIS , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 22, 2012 - 10:28 PM

But there will be no moment of silence during opening ceremonies.


Amelia Hempleman-Adams carried the Olympic Flame atop the London Eye. Opening ceremonies are Friday.

Photo: Joe Gidens, Associated Press

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LONDON - Complaining that the Olympic movement is still ignoring their pain, Israelis marked the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre on Sunday with a modest service in the atrium of a London apartment block.

Prayers were read for the 11 slain Israelis, wreaths were laid for them and a plaque unveiled about 4 miles from the Olympic Stadium.

However, there will be no minute of silence for them at Friday's opening ceremony.

"The International Olympic Committee have a moral commitment to commemorate the 11 athletes, coaches and referees," said Israeli Olympic Committee Secretary-General Efraim Zinger. "Not because they were Israelis, but because they were Olympians and were murdered during the Olympic Games.

"It's been 40 years since that dreadful day, and I hope that the day will come that the IOC will recognize all 11 athletes as victims and find the proper way to commemorate their memory."

IOC President Jacques Rogge reiterated Saturday that the opening ceremony was not an appropriate arena for such an event, despite pressure from politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany.

In talks over several years with Israeli officials, the IOC has not been able to agree to a suitable way of remembering the slain athletes at each games, according to Zinger.

"The frustrating fact is that until now, none of the alternative ways to commemorate was practiced," Zinger said.

Rogge plans to honor the dead at a reception in London during the games on Aug. 6. IOC officials also will attend a ceremony in Germany on the anniversary of the attack on Sept. 5, 1972, at the military airfield where most of the Israelis died.

The tranquility of the Munich Games was shattered in the second week when eight members of the Black September militant group penetrated the laxly secured Olympic Village and took Israeli team members hostage. A day later, all 11 were dead.

Ben Helfgott, who was at the 1972 Olympics, said at Sunday's commemorations that the memorial service after the massacre was "trivialized" because the murders of the competitors were equated with the deaths of the terrorists.

In front of a packed audience featuring a relative of one victim, London Mayor Boris Johnson recalled watching the events unfold as an 8-year-old.

"What sticks in my mind is that sense of sacrilege and a feeling of horror that the world's greatest sporting event should suffer such an attack, and that an attack should be mounted against people who had been training for what should have been the greatest event in their lives," he said.

Johnson said he hoped the Olympics, which run until Aug. 12, are only remembered for sporting endeavors and that athletes of all faiths are able to "unite in a city that unites the world."

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