The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president Jacques Rogge were severely criticized last night at an event commemorating the Munich Eleven. Rogge sat through the event as he was attacked.
The London memorial event for the fortieth anniversary of the murder of eleven Israeli sportsmen at the 1972 Olympics in Munich was unprecedented in its size and the level of participation. Over 700 people attended at the magnificent Guildhall. It was attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg, the Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband and London’s Mayor Boris Johnson, messages were read out from U.S. President Barack Obama and Prince Charles, but all eyes were on IOC President Jacques Rogge.
In recent weeks, it has been Rogge who was the main opposition to holding a minute’s silence at the London Olympics opening ceremony for the Munich Eleven. During the speeches of Cameron and Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub, at the reception preceding the main event, Rogge sat on the stage with a face of a man who would prefer undergoing root canal surgery without anesthetic rather than be there.
Rogge was one of the first speakers, reminded his listeners, who were mainly leaders from the British Jewish community and members of Israel's Olympic delegation and sport establishment that he had participated himself as an athlete at the Munich Olympics and that he was there today "to speak with one voice against terrorism" calling the Munich attack "a direct assault on the core values of the Olympics."
But the other speakers were not having Rogge join them. Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat said that "not observing a silence grants a moral victory to the evil" while UJIA Chairman, Mick Davis, who represented the local Jewish community said in his speech that "we don't understand the priorities of the IOC. To fail to remember is to be complicit."
But the most coruscating criticism came from Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romana, two of the widows of the Munich Eleven who have lead the campaign for a moment's silence in their memory and even called last week not to allow Rogge to attend the ceremony. Spitzer said that "the IOC remain deaf and blind" to the widespread support for remembrance and that the international sporting organizations "is only interested in power, money and politics. They forgot that they were supposed to support peace and brotherhood." She said that the event to remember the Munich Eleven, "should not be in this London Guildhall, or at the Beijing Hilton or in the backyard of the Israeli ambassador in Athens, it should be in the framework of the Olympics." She accused the IOC of having "forsaken eleven members of the Olympic family" and for "discriminating against them simply because they are Israelis and Jews."
Romano echoed her words saying that "they were killed on Olympic soil and they should be remembered on Olympic" and accused the IOC of pursuing "a path of ignorance and denial" and Rogge of personally "hurting and insulting" them. Though they were sitting close to him, Romano and Spitzer did not talk to Rogge during the event.
Earlier when he met the two widows, Prime Minister Cameron said that the moment's silence was "a good idea" and thanked them for their campaigning, but he refrained to say whether he had thought it should have been part of the opening ceremony, only that it was "an important event" and "should be done properly."
In his speech Cameron said that "Britain will always be a staunch friend of Israel" and that the two countries "share the determination to fight terrorism."
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