If the International Olympics Committee refuses to grant a minute of silence for the Israeli athletes murdered during the Munich games, members of the audience at Friday’s opening ceremony should stand up themselves, the widows of two of the athletes asked on Wednesday.
“If you believe that the 11 murdered athletes must be mentioned, stand for a spontaneous minute when the IOC president begins to speak,” said Ilana Romano, wife of Yossef Romano, a weightlifter who was murdered in the 1972 attack.
The media, she said, should follow the lead of NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who has pledged to hold his own on-air minute of silence.
“Silence your microphones for a minute in memory of our loved ones and to condemn terrorism,” she said.
A petition asking the IOC to hold a minute of silence during the opening ceremony on Friday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the attack has been signed by 105,000 people from over 100 countries and was supported by American President Barack Obama.
However the IOC, led by president Jacques Rogge, has steadfastly refused. Romano and Ankie Spitzer, wife of the murdered fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, were in London to present the petition to Rogge in a last-ditch attempt to get him to agree. They were due to meet on Wednesday night, after Rogge postponed a Tuesday meeting.
In a London press conference, Romano launched a harsh attack on Rogge, who was a yachtsman in the 1972 Olympics games.
“He told us that when he heard the explosions in the Olympic village, he debated whether to continue in the Games or go home, and decided not to let terror win. Jacques Rogge, you have let terror win today,” she said.
The families were “very hurt” by his decision, she added. “Maybe his conscience is bothering him.”
Ankie Spitzer said that “even if one person stands” while Rogge speaks during the opening ceremony, “we’ll feel we already made progress.”
She claimed that Limor Livnat, the Israeli minister of Culture and Sport, will stand. However, she denied rumours that the Israeli athletes would hold their own commemoration during the ceremony.
“I understand the rules, no one is allowed to derail anything. There would be no end to it. We don’t expect anything from the Israeli athletes, they are part of the Olympic ceremony and should walk with everyone. We just expect the audience, if they support us, to stand.”
She accused Rogge of betraying the Olympic spirit and said that he was using a Munich ceremony organized by the Israelis and the London Jewish community, on August 6, as an excuse not to hold the moment of silence.
“Jacques Rogge is using it as a hideaway. If the Israeli embassy and London Jewish community were not organizing it, he would not have any memorial to go to. If they can’t do the right thing at home, in the Olympic ceremony, why come?”
However, she denied that he would not be welcome at the event, saying that she was not the host and that the two things were “completely separate”.