Olympics Committee Takes New Steps to Mourn Dead, Including Munich 11

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Memorial ceremony for Munich 11 held at Lod Airport after 1972 Olympics.Credit: AP

AP - The IOC is taking new steps to mourn the dead during the Olympics — but stopping short of holding a moment of silence during opening ceremonies to commemorate the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Munich Games.

Under measures that will go into effect at next year's games in Rio de Janeiro, a special area will be set up in the Olympic Village for athletes to mourn the loss of family or friends, and a "moment of reflection" will be observed during the closing ceremony to remember those who have died during any games.

The moves were approved by the IOC executive board after Olympic leaders faced criticism for refusing a moment of silence for the Israeli victims during the opening of the 2012 London Games, and for preventing athletes from wearing black armbands during competition in tribute to deceased friends, relatives or fellow competitors.

"Participants at past Olympic Games have been affected by casualties and incidents back in their home counties," IOC President Thomas Bach said at the close of a three-day board meeting in Rio on Saturday. "We want to give the athletes the opportunity to express their mourning in a dignified way and environment in the Olympic Village, where representatives of the whole world are living peacefully under the same roof.

"At the closing ceremony, the games come to an end and many people feel that it is a moment to remember people who have died at the Olympic Games."

At the inauguration of the mourning area in the Rio village, Bach said the IOC "will remember all those who have lost their lives at the Olympic Games."

He said that could include the Munich victims as well as Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in a training crash the day before the opening of the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The move is unlikely to satisfy the repeated Israeli requests for a moment of silence during the opening ceremony of past games to acknowledge the Israeli athletes and coaches who died after Palestinian gunmen raided the Munich village.

The families of the victims, Jewish groups and political figures in the United States, Germany and Israel pushed for the victims to be commemorated at the opening ceremony in London, 40 years after the attack.

The IOC has contended that the opening ceremony is not an appropriate forum for a moment of silence. It has paid tribute to the Munich victims in other ways.

Former IOC President Jacques Rogge led a minute of silence inside the athletes village during the 2012 Games, attended a private ceremony in London during the Olympics and took part in a commemoration on the 40th anniversary on Sept. 5, 2012, at the Munich airport where most of the Israelis died.

Asked whether this week's decision was intended as a way to honor the Munich victims, Bach said: "It can give the opportunity to address this, but this was not the only reason."

The IOC also came under fire at last year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, where it reprimanded Norway after four female cross-country skiers wore black armbands in memory of an athlete's brother who died on the eve of the games.

The IOC also told freestyle skiers in Sochi not to wear stickers on their helmets in tribute to Canadian halfpipe skier Sarah Burke, who died after a crash in training in 2012.

IOC rules prohibit the wearing of messages on Olympic uniforms or equipment. The IOC worries that allowing someone to display messages not tied to the games would encourage others to use the Olympics for their own gain.

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