IOC head Jacques Rogge slammed by family of Munich victims


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The Independent Online

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, was criticised by the family-members of those murdered at the Munich Olympics last night over the refusal to hold a minute’s silence during the London 2012 Games’ Opening Ceremony.

Ankie Spitzer, husband of murdered fencing coach Andre Spitzer, condemned Rogge at a ceremony held to remember the eleven people - athletes and coaches from the Israeli team, as well as one German police officer – who were killed by the Palestinian Black September group in 1972.

“My husband Andre was chosen to go to the Olympics, probably with the same dreams as Jacques Rogge and Seb Coe when they went to the Games... the only difference is our loved ones came home in coffins,” she said last night.

The IOC has refused to hold the minute’s silence for fear of threatening Olympic unity, despite repeated calls to commemorate members of the Olympic Family during the Opening Ceremony – which this year did include a commemoration of those involved in two World Wars fought between competing nations.

And ahead of London 2012, which marks 40 years since the Israeli team members were taken hostage and murdered, the demands intensified. But, as at previous Games, they were ultimately refused.

The Munich massacre took place after members of the terrorist group scaled the walls of the Olympic Village and took hostages. Negotiations to secure their release broke down and they were killed.

Ms Spitzer, who has lead the campaign for an official act of remembrance, was given a standing ovation for her speech, Reuters reported.

In it, she said: “Shame on you IOC, because you have forgotten 11 members of the Olympic Family.

“You're discriminating against them only because they are Israelis and Jews. We will come back until we hear the words you need to say because you owe them.

“Those who forget history are bound to repeat it.

“Sometimes I wonder if I am the last person left who believes in the Olympic ideals. Is the IOC only interested in power, money and politics... did they forget they are supposed to promote peace, brotherhood and fair play?

She said those killed were “members of the same Olympic Family and that is why we want them remembered as such”.

She added: “Not here in this beautiful Guildhall, not in the Hilton Hotel in Beijing, not in the backyard of our ambassador in Athens, but within the Olympic framework.”

The Israeli authorities organise a memorial at each Games but the families of those killed, as well as their supporters, believe that responsibility should fall on the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC has a memorial at its Olympic Museum in Lausanne and tribute was paid by Rogge at the Israeli-organised ceremony in the Olympic Village during a London 2012, a first for the IOC. 

Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband all attended.

At last night’s ceremony, US President Barack Obama sent a greeting to the gathering which was read by U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman.

“While the United States supported a moment of silence in their honour, we welcome any effort to recall the terrible loss that was suffered in Munich and the lives of those who were lost,” Obama wrote.

Mr Rogge himself paid tribute, saying: “I competed in Munich in 1972 and I will never forget why we are here,” according to the Olympics news website Inside the Games.

He added: “We are all here today because we should show... that the victims of 1972 are never forgotten.

“We are here to pay tribute to 11 great members of the Israeli Olympic delegation who showed courage throughout their ordeal.

“There is no justification for terrorism, ever.

“The Olympic Movement will continue more than ever to bring this message to future generations.”