| TEL AVIV, March 7
TEL AVIV, March 7 (repeats story first
moved at 1402 GMT)
Forty years after 11 Israelis were killed by Palestinian
gunmen at the 1972 Munich Games, the families of the dead are
urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to organise an
Two widows of athletes who were killed have long campaigned
for the 1972 victims to be remembered at Olympic opening
ceremonies - either through the IOC president's welcome speech
or with a moment of silence - but they fear their call for a
commemoration in London on July 27 will again be ignored.
"We want the International Olympic Committee ... with all
10,000 young athletes in front of them, to say: 'Let us not
forget what happened in Munich'. (We want this) only for one
reason, so it will never happen again," said Ankie Spitzer,
whose fencing coach husband, Andre, was one of the 11 Israelis
She said the IOC did not want to mention the tragedy at high
profile events such as the opening ceremony as it would annoy
"They say we bring politics into the Olympics, which is not
true, because I didn't ask them to say that there were 11
Israelis. They tell us that the Arab delegations will get up and
leave, to which I said: 'It's okay, if they don't understand
what the Olympics are all about, let them leave.'"
Although the IOC participates in remembrance services
organised by others, it has yet to arrange its own memorial, a
senior Israeli Olympic Committee official said.
"Whenever we have discussed the issue with the IOC, our
position has always been, at every meeting, that the time has
come for the International Olympic Committee to initiate its own
commemoration," Efraim Zinger, secretary general of the Olympic
Committee of Israel, told Reuters.
The IOC said in a written response that the Munich 11 had
not been forgotten and it would continue to attend commemorative
events, including in London in the second week of the Games
organised by the Israeli Olympic Committee.
"London will be no exception. There will be an event at the
Guildhall, which the IOC president is expected to attend," the
IOC told Reuters.
Zinger said the IOC should be more pro-active.
"Jacques Rogge is the first incumbent president to have
participated in our commemoration ceremony and we are very
appreciative and thankful, but the Olympics, while comprised of
many moments of glory, unfortunately have also had their moments
of gloom and the IOC cannot ignore them," he said.
On Sept. 5, 1972, members of the Israeli Olympic team were
taken hostage at the poorly secured athletes' village by
Palestinian gunmen from the Black September group.
Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German
policeman were dead after a standoff and subsequent rescue
effort erupted into gunfire.
Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widow of weightlifter Joseph
Romano, told Reuters they will not let the matter rest.
"They were shot because they were Olympic athletes, they
were sons of the Olympic movement, they were invited by the
Olympic movement ... recognise them, give them their moment's
silence ... the IOC must commemorate so that all the world will
see. And they should want it, because history could repeat
itself," Romano said.
But Israel's influential IOC member, Alex Gilady, an
ex-journalist who covered the Munich Games for Israeli
television, said he was unsure if a commemoration at the opening
ceremony was appropriate or necessary.
"I'm not sure what is so special about the number 40. I was
sure that the number four was much more critical. The Israeli
Olympic Committee, at the time in Montreal in 1976, could have
demanded a memorial and they didn't ask for a memorial then; not
in 1980 ... not in '84 when in Los Angeles this would have been
almost definite ... to happen; not in '88, not in '92," he said.
Dutch-born Spitzer disputed Gilady's assertion, saying she
was party to appeals for commemorations at opening ceremonies of
subsequent Games, all of which had been ignored.
"I spoke to Jacques Rogge, not once, not twice, not three
times ... he said 'it's not time yet, we cannot do it yet' ...
(but) my patience is up," she said.
Gilady said singling out the Israelis for commemoration was
"not easy to do", especially since other countries have also
experienced Olympic tragedies, such as the two people who died
after a bomb exploded at the Olympic Park during the 1996
"Maybe the Israelis want to stop it at the 11, as if that is
the only tragedy that happened. It is not easy to do, we have to
consider many, many other elements and I don't know the answer,
if it is time or not. I hope the time will come," he said.
Romano said next generations would continue the campaign.
"We have sown the seeds of remembrance over 40 years ... that
are now sprouting among our children and our grandchildren."
The IOC said the Munich dead would remain in its focus:
"One thing is certain: We will never forget," its statement
(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin, Writing by
Ori Lewis, editing by Pritha Sarkar)