The widows of two Israeli athletes killed in the Munich Olympics bitterly attacked the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, at a memorial service for the Munich 11 in London tonight over his refusal to allow a minute of silence at the opening ceremony.
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person left who still believes in Olympic ideals,” Ankie Spitzer told the audience, which included Rogge. “Is the IOC only interested in power, money and politics?”
“Shame on you, IOC,” said Spitzer, who was married to fencing coach Andre Spitzer. “You have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family. You are against them only because they are Israelis and Jews.”
Ilana Romano, widow of weightlifter Yossef Romano, told Rogge to a standing ovation that “today, you submitted to terrorism.
“You will be written down on the pages of history as a former athlete who became a president who violated the Olympic charter that calls for brotherhood, friendship and peace.”
The widows’ campaign for a minute of silence at the opening ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 attack, in which 11 Israeli athletes died, gained more than 111,000 signatures from over 100 countries, and attracted support from American President Barack Obama. However, Rogge refused to allow the memorial to go ahead.
Around 600 people attended the service tonight, which was organized by National Olympic Committee of Israel, the Jewish Committee for the London Games and the Israeli embassy in London. Guests included British Prime Minister David Cameron, London Mayor Boris Johnson, Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Rogge, who spoke before the Munich widows, did not refer to the Munich minute of silence. He said that “we are all here today because we share the duty of remembering the victims and to make sure the lessons of 1972 are never forgotten… We are here to speak with one voice against terrorism. There is no justification for terrorism, ever.”
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, earlier told the gathering that the Munich tragedy was “one of the darkest days in the history of the Olympic games… it was a truly shocking act of evil. A crime against the Jewish people. A crime against humanity. A crime the world must never forget.”
He connected the massacre to the terror attack in Bulgaria last month in which five Israeli tourists and one local bus driver were killed and promised, “We will help hunt down those responsible for the attack.”
After the ceremony, asked whether she had been nervous confronting Rogge, Spitzer said, “It wasn’t bravery, it was the truth. We gave him many opportunities to get out of the hole he dug himself.”
Romano said that she was not surprised that Rogge did not refer to the minute of silence.
“What could he say? It was all old. He didn’t say anything new to me. Maybe I said something new to him.
“I have been waiting for a long time to tell him what I thought. This time we took the gloves off. Up to now I was always diplomatic.”