This week, IOC President Jacques Rogge held a moment of silence for the Israelis at a small ceremony in the Olympic Village attended by about 100 people. On Aug. 6, he will honor them again at a private reception in London.
But on the world stage, which is exactly where this gruesome act unfolded 40 years ago, Rogge refuses to remember the Israelis, saying that the Opening Ceremonies is not the appropriate place to do so.
Is he kidding?
The chorus of calls for a moment of silence at the Opening Ceremonies is growing. President Obama and other Western leaders have signed on though Obama’s spokesman only mentioned “a minute of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich”; there was no mention of the Opening Ceremonies.
Globally, more than 100,000 plus petitioners have joined families of the 11 victims in calling on the IOC to do the right thing.
And in case anyone needed a reminder as to why such gestures are necessary, we got one last week from Bulgaria, where a bus bomber murdered six people — five Israelis and their tour guide — and injured 34 others — all Israelis — in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas.
Yet the IOC refuses to remember the Israelis in the one venue that matters, preferring instead to make the gesture in small out-of-the-way settings — almost as if it’s ashamed to be seen remembering dead Israelis.
The reason is obvious: politics.
Among the 205 countries sending teams to this year’s games are many that are hostile to the Jewish state. Some see the perpetrators of the Munich Massacre as heroes rather than villains.
Would the athletes from those countries remain in Olympic Stadium were the moment of silence held? Would they even participate in the Opening Ceremonies?
We rather doubt it.
But this much we know: By not allowing a moment of silence on the anniversary of the worst tragedy to befall the modern Olympics — in its most public arena — apparently for political reasons, the IOC is politicizing the Games far more than if it did permit the gesture. It is acknowledging that political pressure from the dark side works and that perhaps Israelis killed in a peaceful gathering of nations don’t rate such remembrance.
Most of all, it makes a statement far more telling about the IOC: It is a committee of cowards.
No one is asking the IOC to ban nations from the Games. No one is calling on Rogge to make a political statement. But many people are asking him to show solidarity with the victims of violence — in this case, violence that occurred in his own house.
Such courage Rogge and the IOC apparently lack, and for that they are a diminished entity.