Munich Memorial / IOC Holds Surprise Ceremony to Commemorate 1972 Massacre

IOC President says the victims deserve to be remembered.

The International Olympic Committee unexpectedly paid tribute on Monday to the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed at the 1972 Munich Games, making this the first time their murders were marked in any Olympic village.

IOC President Jacques Rogge, who on Saturday had ruled out marking the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre at the opening ceremony this Friday, said the victims deserve to be remembered. Thus he began a ceremony held on Monday by saying they were there to honor "the memory of 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals and have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village."

Rogge added, "The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision. They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep that spirit alive and to remember them."

A minute of silence was observed following Rogge's comments. Also in attendance were London Olympic Organizing Committee chairman Sebastian Coe, London Mayor Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt and several IOC officials.

Rogge said that while sport had the ability to unite, it could not solve all the world's problems.

"As the event of 40 years ago reminds us, sport is not immune from, and cannot cure, all the ills of the world."

Following the ceremony Johnson pumped his fist and said: "Great speech."

"It was a spontaneous suggestion," Rogge told a small group of reporters after his speech. "This is indeed the first time that it has happened in the Olympic village.

"I could not speak here about peace and sport without reminding what happened 40 years ago," said Rogge, who competed at the Munich Olympics as a sailor.

Family members of the athletes, coaches and officials who were killed by Palestinian gunmen during the Munich Olympics have tried for four decades to persuade the IOC to organize an official commemoration. Their calls were backed in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as other politicians around the world.

Rogge said his decision to mark the anniversary was not aimed at ending calls for a minute's silence during the opening ceremony. "The intention was not to calm anyone," he said.