Pleas for minute’s silence falls on deaf ears

Pleas for minute’s silence falls on deaf ears
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Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon last month backed calls by the families of the 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and referees murdered 40 years ago to hold a silent tribute during the London Games.

But, responding in a letter this week, reportedly described by Jerusalem as a “polite but very clear rejection”, IOC President Jacques Rogge said: “The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions and will continue to do so in close co-ordination with the National Olympic Committee of Israel.”

While not mentioning the specific call for a silence, he insisted that “the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away” among the Olympic family.

“We strongly sympathise with the victims’ families and understand their lasting pain. What happened in Munich strengthened the determination of the Olympic movement to contribute more than ever to building a peaceful and better world by educating young people through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit.”

He did, however, confirm his plans to attend a Munich memorial event, organised by the Israelis, at the Guildhall during the Games on 6 August. But Ayalon said of the letter: “This response is unacceptable. It rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest. The attack on the Israeli athletes was not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion. It was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community. Thus, it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than a small, reduced side event.”

He added: “This approach told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations. This is a 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.”

The Foreign Ministry is now preparing a campaign to highlight the issue. The Israeli Olympic Committee and the families of the victims have long called for the IOC to take responsibility for organising its own memorial during Olympic Games.

But in the build-up to the London Games, pressure has been building for a silent tribute, with more than 30,000 signing a petition, from Munich widow Ankie Spitzer and JCC Rockland in the US, calling for such a move.

MPs from across the political spectrum, led by Conservative Bob Blackman, have also backed calls for a silence.

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