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Canadian who competed in 1972 says Opening Ceremony must honour Munich victims

Neate Sager
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Widow Ankie Spitzer (right) has spent four decades trying to get the IOC tol hold a memorial for Munich (Associated …

A Canadian Olympian who was there in Munich in 1972 is among the latest to decry the travesty that the International Olympic Committee can't spare a second, let alone a minute, to honour the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Games 40 years ago.

Obviously, there is something significant about it being 40 years, even though one of the Israeli widows, Ankie Spitzer, has been trying to no avail to commemorate the victims' memory at every Summer Games since 1976. On Wednesday, the same day IOC president Jacques Rogge turned down a face-to-face request from Spitzer to do what's right, Canadian Olympic alumna Karen James joined the call.

[Memorable Moments: The Munich massacre]

From CBC News:

Karen James, who swam for Canada in 1972, says it's time to pay tribute at the opening of the 2012 summer games in London on Friday, 40 years after the event.

"At the beginning of the opening ceremonies they should acknowledge a terrible tragedy that occurred, and say never again will that happen under the Olympic umbrella, and stop for a minute of silence," James told CBC News.

... James said the IOC's reluctance to conduct such a memorial might be because the committee is worried about a backlash from Arab countries.

"If [the IOC] had acknowledged and agreed to it in the beginning, it wouldn't be political, but by refusing to do so, it's become a huge political deal," James said.

Only a politician would try to have people on that holding memorial services out of the spotlight is the way to go. (Canada, Australia and the U.S.' governments have all said a minute of silence should be held.)

[Dan Wetzel: IOC would rather party than honour victims]

Scarred a generation of athletes

It is gratifying to see a Canadian such as Karen James, who was there, speak out about the appalling snub. Regardless of whatever is in store for the Opening Ceremony, recalling the worst day in Olympic history should take precedence. The ripple of evil from that act of war surely touched that entire generation of athletes. It's unclear if people ever really heal from that, or anything, but it might offer closure, or convey they're not alone in having a degree of survivor's guilt. One can only think of David Hart, one of a group of 1972 Canadian competitors who this spring told Cathal Kelly that they believe they "certainly" helped the terrorists get into the Olympic village.

Twenty-four years after he'd watched nine Israelis being marched out to their deaths, Hart was asked to speak to his daughter's high-school class ahead of the 1996 Atlanta games.

He gave a short talk to 30 teenage girls. Afterward, there was a Q and A. One of the girls asked, "Mr. Hart, you were at the Munich games. Isn't that where the terrorist attack was?"

"I just broke down in front of them," Hart said. "It's almost a feeling of guilt that I did not go to the memorial service ... The reason I may have blocked it out at the time was that it was a dream to go the Olympic Games and someone destroyed that dream." (Toronto Star, Apr. 28)

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In 1972, Ankie Spitzer visited the room her husband, Andrei, was taken hostage from (Associated Press)

That memorial service in Munich, incidentally, was attended by 80,000 people, roughly the same size as the standard Olympic stadium. So how is a small memorial service really appropriate, given the scale of what happened? Also, it's a history lesson for the people who weren't born in 1972.

From Chelsey Sterling of the Munich Initiative:

By calling for a minute of silence, we are hoping to bring the knowledge of the generation who experienced Munich to the generation who experienced 9/11 and to engage both generations in dialogue. Both generations have important insights into terror and tragedy that need to be brought into the public consciousness. (Washington Post)

[More: Iranian who could have faced Israeli pulls out of Olympics]

Only the IOC's inner sanctum knows why it won't do anything. And doing nothing leads people to believe the worst about the IOC.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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