Olympic organizing head Jacques Rogge insisted again Saturday that there would be no minute of silence for the Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich massacre, but said he would lead an official delegation to the German city to mark the tragedy.
Pressure on Rogge to include a moment of remembrance has ramped up in recent months as the opening of the London Olympics nears.
Last week US President Barack Obama joined a battery of other world leaders saying they supported a moment of silence for the 11 slain Israeli athletes at the upcoming London Games, which will mark the 40th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian terrorists.
Rogge, who heads the International Olympic Committee, continued to rebuff the calls, but said a September 5 memorial on a Munich airfield would pay a “very strong homage and remembrance” to the victims.
Munich’s Furstenfeldbruck airbase was the site of a botched raid by German commandos during the 1972 games that ended with nine Israeli athletes being killed by their kidnappers. Two other members of the team had been killed earlier.
Rogge said again that he did not believe the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, slated for Friday, was the right venue for a moment of silence.
“The opening ceremony is an atmosphere that isn’t fit to remember such tragic events,” he told a news conference.
Rogge was asked whether he was swayed by Obama’s view.
“We also pay big attention to recommendations coming either from the political world, or cultural world, or world of enterprise,” Rogge said. “And we take then a decision taking into consideration (those recommendations). I will not say that we are necessarily following the advice, but we take it into consideration, yes.”
On Sunday morning, a memorial event will be held in east London attended by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Efraim Zinger, head of Israel’s Olympic committee.
Also last week, American broadcaster Bob Costas said he would “call out” the IOC for refusing the request while announcing the Israeli team’s arrival.
Israeli leaders have been joined by politicians in the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia and elsewhere calling for a moment of silence.
On another issue related to Israel, Rogge said the IOC would investigate any athletes who pull out of competing against Israelis in London claiming they were injured. In the past, athletes from Iran have withdrawn from Olympic events that included Israelis without facing sanctions.
“If an athlete is genuinely injured or ill, then of course it is understandable,” Rogge said. “But we will examine every case very thoroughly and we will examine every case with an independent medical team. If the medical team does not ratify the decision of the first doctor, then the athlete will be punished.”
Rogge said the IOC has reminded all national Olympic committees, not just Arab bodies, that refusing to compete against another competitor is “totally forbidden by the Olympic Charter.”
With six days to go until the opening of the London Games, Rogge expressed confidence in preparations after a week of headlines about concerns over security, transportation and other matters. The focus has been on the failure of private security firm G4S to recruit enough guards to protect the venues, a blunder which forced the British government to call up an extra 3,500 soldiers.
Rogge said the IOC has received full explanations from London organizers and the government.”We are reassured that everything that is needed has been put in place,” he said. “Yes it has been an issue. It has been identified. Corrective measures were taken. I humbly believe it is time to move on.”