This year will mark the 40th anniversary the Olympics’ darkest day, and one of the darkest in the history of the struggle against terrorism: the massacre of Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian terrorists in Munich in 1972. But, true to form, the International Olympic Committe “flatly rejected a minute of silence at today’s opening ceremony in London to mark” the event.
According to Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who was murdered by the Palestinian Black September group in 1972, IOC president Jacques Rogge capitulated to the 46-member bloc of Arab and Muslim countries because of the threat of Arab countries to boycott participation in the Games.
Spitzer, who jumpstarted an international campaign to garner a minute of silence at the London games, reported that Rogge told her that “his hands were tied” by the influence of the 46-member group.
Her rejoinder to Rogge: “No, my husband’s hands were tied, not yours.”
Whatever the reason for his refusal to honor the dead this year, Rogge’s decision is consistent with the IOC’s previous attitude. The group was criticized 40 years ago for its tepid response, including its refusal to cancel the remainder of the games (a decision which, by the way, the Israeli government supported at the time):
In the wake of the hostage-taking, competition was suspended for the first time in modern Olympic history. On 6 September, a memorial service attended by 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes was held in the Olympic Stadium. IOC President Avery Brundage made little reference to the murdered athletes during a speech praising the strength of the Olympic movement and equating the attack on the Israeli sportsmen with the recent arguments about encroaching professionalism and disallowing Rhodesia’s participation in the Games, which outraged many listeners…
Many of the 80,000 people who filled the Olympic Stadium for West Germany’s football match with Hungary carried noisemakers and waved flags, but when several spectators unfurled a banner reading “17 dead, already forgotten?” security officers removed the sign and expelled those responsible from the grounds. During the memorial service, the Olympic Flag was flown at half-staff, along with the flags of most of the other competing nations at the request of Willy Brandt. Ten Arab nations objected to their flags being lowered to honor murdered Israelis; their flags were restored to the tops of their flagpoles almost immediately…
The families of some victims have asked the IOC to establish a permanent memorial to the athletes. The IOC has declined, saying that to introduce a specific reference to the victims could “alienate other members of the Olympic community,” according to the BBC. Alex Gilady, an Israeli IOC official, told the BBC: “We must consider what this could do to other members of the delegations that are hostile to Israel.”
But all of that is secondary to the 1972 event itself. If you’re not familiar with it, a simple way to learn the main facts is to watch the powerful award-winning documentary “One Day in September.” Those of you who were around in 1972 can relive the horror, including some facts you’ve probably forgotten; those who were not can familiarize themselves with a day that put Palestinian terrorism on the Olympic map.
And not just the Olympic map, either; despite initial outrage, the world seemed to sympathize with the terrorists much more than the victims:
…Munich was one of the most successful attacks in terrorist history. As Bruce Hoffman, a leading authority on terrorism points out, “The premier example of terrorism’s power to rocket a cause from obscurity to renown…was without doubt the murder of eleven Israeli athletes seized by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games…
Most of the world had forgotten the Palestinians existed before the attack at Munich. Within two years of the massacre…Yassar Arafat was being feted by world leaders and invited to address the General Assembly of the United Nations…
“One Day in September” is available at YouTube in its entirety. It is a very disturbing film. Its subject matter is, of course, a vile and audacious act of murderous terrorism by a group that’s since become the darling of the Western world. But it’s also difficult and immensely frustrating to relive the incident step by step as an observer; one wants to reach out and change history. The film also (in my opinion) is too graphic in some of its photos of the victims; we don’t need those to understand the heinousness of the perpetrators’ acts. But I recommend that you watch it. You will be outraged all over again, not only at the perpetrators themselves, but at the mind-bogglingly inept bungling of the German authorities—and then at how history and public opinion has played out.