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Israel wants Olympic silence for Munich

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Israel urged the international community yesterday to overturn the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) “unacceptable” rejection of its request for a minute’s silence during London 2012 in memory of the 11 athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich games.

The long running campaign by the widows of two of the athletes killed by the Palestinian Black September group in 1972 for an official stadium commemoration was given Israeli government backing this year in a letter from Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister, to the International Olympic President Jacques Rogge.

But in his response Mr Rogge said only that he and other IOC officials will attend the normal commemorative event hosted by the Israel Olympics committee, which will be held at London’s Guildhall this year.

Mr Ayalon said yesterday that “this rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations.” “The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were …..an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community,” he added. “Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event.”

An aide to Mr Ayalon said officials would discuss how to step up the campaign for a minute’s silence. The Minister declared: “We hope that this decision will be overturned so the international community, as one, can remember, reflect and learn the appropriate lesson from this dark stain on Olympic history.”

The Munich attack – which wholly overshadowed but did not halt the games 40 years ago —began before dawn on 5 September  when eight  armed  members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation faction used stolen keys to enter two apartments housing the Israeli athletes. In the ensuing struggle, the attackers killed two of the athletes –including weightlifter Yossi Romano, whose widow is one of those behind the campaign.

The PLO group—which was demanding the release of 324 Palestinian prisoners—then took another nine athletes hostage. After hours of negotiations the athletes were taken to an airbase where German sharpshooters opened fire on the militants. Although five of the Palestinians were killed,  a survivor then shot  the nine hostages. Annie Spitzer, whose fencing coach husband Andre was one of those killed at the airbase has been seeking an IOC commemoration of the games since 1976.