The Corner

The Olympic Spirit (Ctd)

 Deborah Lipstadt writes in the Tablet:

For the past few months there has been a concerted effort to get the International Olympic Committee to set aside one minute of silence at the opening ceremony at this year’s games to commemorate the Israeli athletes who were murdered—not killed, murdered—at the Munich games in 1972….

…Competition at the games had continued until mid-afternoon that Tuesday. Only after a barrage of criticism did IOC President Avery Brundage suspend activities. Brundage, who served as president of American Olympic Committee in the 1930s, had been a great admirer of Hitler and, as late as 1971, had insisted that the Berlin games were one of the best ever. In 1936, when some Americans tried to organize a boycott of the games, Brundage fought the effort vigorously until he decided to use it as a fundraising tool. He assumed that Jews who were embarrassed by the threat of a boycott would give to the AOC and help decrease anti-Semitism in the United States. Brundage’s plan apparently came to naught.

At the Munich memorial service, held on Wednesday, Sept. 6, the day after the massacre, Brundage defiantly declared: “The games must go on.” His cry was met with cheers by the crowd. (Red Smith of the New York Times described it as more pep rally than memorial.) The games did go on, but the Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Murray described it as “like having a dance at Dachau.”

In the years since, the families of the victims have repeatedly told the IOC that all they want is a chance to mark the murder of athletes who had traveled to the games to do precisely what athletes do: compete at their very best. These victims deserved to be remembered by the very organization that had brought them to Munich.

Why the IOC refusal? The Olympic Committee’s official explanation is that the games are apolitical. The families were repeatedly told by long-time IOC President Juan Samaranch that the Olympic movement avoided political issues. He seemed to have forgotten that at the 1996 opening ceremony he spoke about the Bosnian war. Politics were also present at the 2002 games, which opened with a minute of silence for the victims of 9/11.

The families have also been told that a commemoration of this sort was inappropriate at the opening of such a celebratory event. However, the IOC has memorialized other athletes who died “in the line of duty.” At the 2010 winter games, for example, there was a moment of silence to commemorate an athlete who died in a training accident.

The IOC’s explanation is nothing more than a pathetic excuse. The athletes who were murdered were from Israel and were Jews—that is why they aren’t being remembered. The only conclusion one can draw is that Jewish blood is cheap, too cheap to risk upsetting a bloc of Arab nations and other countries that oppose Israel and its policies.

Not to worry, Deborah, Lord Coe, the Chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (and, regrettably, a former Tory MP) is reportedly going to have a “personal moment” in which he will mark the anniversary. 

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