The family members of the eleven Israeli athletes who were murdered forty years ago at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games by Palestinian terrorists asked that the audience at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games, this Friday, stand in silence while International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge opens the games. The IOC has steadfastly refused the families' request for an official moment of silence at the ceremony.
Two of the family members, Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer and Ilana Romano widow of weight-lifter Ilan Romano, are in London to deliver a petition to Rogge signed online by 105,000 people from around the world, calling for an official minute of silence at the opening ceremony. At a press conference held in East London Wednesday morning, by the Olympic stadium, they attacked Rogge for holding a "spontaneous" moment of silence on Monday at the Olympic village. "He did it in darkness, hiding away, in a faraway corner of the Olympic village," said Romano, "and deeply hurt the feelings of the families. My husband was a member of the Olympic family, murdered on Olympic soil and he deserves proper recognition." She asked the 80 thousand spectators who will attend the opening ceremony on Friday "if you believe that the eleven fallen of Munich deserve to be remembered, please stand up in silence when Rogge opens the Games."
Ankie Spitzer said that the families have been running a campaign for forty years to have their relatives deaths officially recognized at the Olympics. "For forty years, the IOC have been selling us lame excuses," she said. "In 1976, at Montreal, they said that there are 41 Arab delegations and they will leave if there is a moment of silence. At Barcelona (1992) they said we were bringing in politics to the Olympics. At Atlanta (1996) they said that it isn't part of the protocol, so we asked, was it part of the protocol that our husbands returned home in coffins? Rogge said to us, 'my hands are tied,' but it was our husbands whose hands were tied and their feet also." She said that the only reason for the IOC's refusal is "discrimination, it seems that our husbands, brothers and fathers did not come from the right country and were of the wrong religion. Two years ago at the Vancouver winter games when a Georgian athlete was killed, they mentioned it." Israel's sports minister, Limor Livnat, who will be attending the opening ceremony, is expected to stand in silence when Rogge opens the games.
Israel's ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, who also attended the press conference, said that "this is not just an Israeli or Jewish event, the Munich massacre was the darkest moment in Olympic history and it is our duty to make sure that it is not forgotten."
Romano and Spitzer are to deliver the petition this evening to Rogge, at a closed meeting. The Israeli embassy and Jewish organizations in Britain and around the world are planning to hold "virtual" moments of silence on Friday in memory of the fallen Munich athletes.
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