RIO DE JANEIRO — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach led a mourning ceremony Wednesday for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics — a tribute that a widow of one of the victims said brought “closure” for the families.
Bach, his voice cracking with emotion, read out of the names of each of the 11 Israelis and the German policeman who died after the raid in the athletes’ village in Munich, the worst terror attack in Olympic history.
With two widows of the victims and several current Israeli team members looking on, Bach said the Munich massacre “was an attack not only on our fellow Olympians but also an assault on the values that the Olympic Village stands for.”
Bach led a minute of silence during the inauguration of a “place of mourning” in the athletes village in Rio de Janeiro. He hugged Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of fencing coach Andre Spitzer and weightlifter Yossef Romano.
Bach also read out of the name of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger killed in a training crash on the eve of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Families of the Munich victims have campaigned for years for greater public recognition for the dead from the International Olympic Committee. The IOC faced criticism for refusing to hold a moment of silence for the Israeli victims during the opening of the 2012 London Games, 40 years after the attack.
“We waited for this for 44 years, to have this remembrance and recognition of our loves ones who were killed so brutally in Munich,” Ankie Spitzer said Wednesday. “We wanted them to be really accepted as members of the Olympic family. Now that President Bach had a minute of silence in the Olympic village, calling out the names of our loves ones, this is closure for us.”
“I cannot explain how emotional I am, how much this means for us.”
Romano said: “I never believed it’s going to come after 44 years. This is a moment of history.”
The mourning area inaugurated Wednesday is located in a quiet outdoor spot in the village where athletes can remember family, friends and others who have passed away.
The ceremony was attended by athletes in Israeli, German and Georgian team uniforms. The memorial includes two stones from Ancient Olympia in Greece and the inscription: “We will always remember you forever in our hearts.”