search
Israeli official: 'IOC chief promised, and kept his word'

After 49 years, Israeli victims of 1972 Olympic massacre honored at Tokyo opener

For first time, moment of silence held at start of Games for 11 Israeli athletes slain by Palestinian terrorists; victims’ widows: ‘This is the moment we’ve waited for’

  • Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of Andre Spitzer and Yoseff Romano, who were murdered in the 1972 Munich massacre, take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony, July 23, 221, at which a moment of silence was held for Israel's 1972 Olympic massacre victims (Courtesy)
    Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of Andre Spitzer and Yoseff Romano, who were murdered in the 1972 Munich massacre, take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony, July 23, 221, at which a moment of silence was held for Israel's 1972 Olympic massacre victims (Courtesy)
  • Israel's flag bearers Hanna Minenko (L) and Yakov Toumarkin lead the delegation during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Ben STANSALL/AFP)
    Israel's flag bearers Hanna Minenko (L) and Yakov Toumarkin lead the delegation during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Ben STANSALL/AFP)
  • The 11 Israeli Munich Olympics victims.
    The 11 Israeli Munich Olympics victims.

Forty-nine years after the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Friday’s opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics included, for the first time, an official commemoration of those who died in the terror attack.

Tributes were paid to those lost during the pandemic and throughout Olympic history. The Israeli delegation that was killed at the Munich Games was specifically mentioned. A moment of silence was offered inside the stadium, alongside a dance performance honoring the dead.

“In particular we remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic games,” the announcer said. “One group still holds a strong place in all our memories and stands for all of those we have lost at the games: the members of the Israel delegation at the Olympic Games Munich 1972.”

The 1972 attack at the Munich Olympics saw 11 Israeli athletes murdered by the Black September Palestinian terror group. Two of the Israelis were murdered in the Olympic Village. The Palestinian terrorists kidnapped another nine and demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, as well as two prominent West German leftist militants.

After a failed attempt by German security forces to retake the hostages, the Palestinians turned their weapons on the Israelis, killing them all.

The 11 victims were David Berger, Ze’ev Friedman, Yoseff Gutfreund, Moshe Weinberg, Yoseff Romano, Mark Slavin, Eliezer Halfin, Yakov Springer, Andre Spitzer, Amitzur Shapira and Kehat Shorr. Their individual stories can be read in this 2014 blog post.

They were to take part in events that included wrestling, fencing, weight-lifting and athletics.

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.

Widows Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano were at Friday’s ceremony.

“Finally there is justice for the husbands, sons and fathers murdered at Munich,” the two said in a joint statement. “We went through 49 years of struggle and never gave up. [We] cannot hold back our tears. This is the moment we’ve waited for.”

Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of Andre Spitzer and Yoseff Romano, who were murdered in the 1972 Munich massacre, take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony, July 23, 2021 (Courtesy)

In 2016, a memorial ceremony was held for the first time during the Rio Games (but not in the opening ceremony), under the leadership of German IOC President Thomas Bach.

With two widows of the victims and several Israeli team members looking on, Bach said then that 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.”

Ilana Romano, center, and Ankie Spitzer, right, widows of Israeli Olympic athletes killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics, attend a memorial in their husbands’ honor, ahead of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, Pool)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised the move.

“Today, for the first time at the Olympic Games, there was an official commemoration for the massacre of the 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympics. I applaud this important historic moment,” he said. “May their memories be a blessing.”

Igal Carmi, head of the Israeli Olympic Committee, said Israel was “grateful” for the 2021 tribute.

“The International Olympic Committee fulfilled the yearnings of the families of the 11 Israeli Munich victims and bravely commemorated [them] at the opening ceremony tonight,” he said in a statement.

Israel’s flag bearers Hanna Minenko (L) and Yakov Toumarkin lead the delegation during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

He said Bach had promised the families of the dead “that the Olympic Movement would remember the 11 victims of Munich, for the first time in history, after 49 years. He promised, and he was true to his word.”

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed