Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat stood silently in the VIP area during the address by IOC president Jaques Rogge at Friday night’s Olympic 2012 opening ceremony in London. She was commemorating the 11 Israeli Olympic team members who were killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Games and protesting the IOC’s refusal to hold a moment of silence during the ceremony.
Livnat, seated in a special dignitaries box, took the decision to stage the silent act after Rogge made clear in a press conference that the IOC was sticking to its position against holding a minute of silence during the ceremony.
The image of her standing was not broadcast on the official Olympic TV feed. It was shown on Israel television only after the ceremony concluded.
Sports news site Sport5 reported Friday that the Foreign Ministry was attempting to convince ministers from other countries to join Livnat in her act of protest. Israel, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany and numerous other countries urged the IOC to commemorate the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre at the Games’ opening ceremony, but were rebuffed by Rogge.
Others had also been asked to stand in silence during Rogge’s speech, with advocacy efforts made in recent weeks by widows of the murdered Israeli athletes and coaches.
“If you believe that the 11 murdered athletes must be mentioned, stand for a spontaneous minute when the IOC president begins to speak,” Ilana Romano, wife of Yossef Romano, a weightlifter who was murdered in the 1972 attack, had urged.
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.
Israel TV silenced its own commentary for 30 seconds when the Israeli athletes entered the stadium, and showed a photo composite of the 11 Munich victims.
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 was signed by 105,000 people from over 100 countries and was supported by American President Barack Obama.
More than 20,000 people in various venues in London attended the British Zionist Federation’s “Minute for Munich” program, promoted via social media, earlier Friday.
About 200 people marked the Minute for Munich in Trafalgar Square, reciting memorial prayers and lighting memorial candles. Afterwards, they waved British and Israeli flags in front of media who attended the event.
British Zionist Federation Chairman Harvey Rose slammed the International Olympic Committee on Friday for refusing to hold a moment of silence at Friday night’s opening ceremony.
During a memorial service for the murdered athletes held in the Israeli Embassy in London, Rose accused the IOC of having an anti-Israel bias, saying he was “absolutely convinced that if any other country’s athletes had been slaughtered the way the Israeli athletes were slaughtered then there would have held a moment of silence.”
“Shame on the IOC for its clear anti-Israel bias. Shame on the IOC for not appreciating what the Olympics are all about,” he added.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub said the murder of the Israeli team members was “the darkest moment of Olympic history,” calling it “a tragedy for Israel and for the Jewish people.”
“Less than three decades after the Shoah, we witnessed the murder of Jews, as Jews, on German soil. It’s a tragedy we have to remember, particularly in a week when we saw terrorism against Israel strike again as we saw in Bulgaria,” said Taub.
Taub called the Munich attack a strike on Olympic values and said commemoration was vital to show the world that those values were still relevant.
Rogge on Friday said the IOC had not been pressured by any government to hold a moment of silence.
“There has been no pressure from any nation whatsoever,” Rogge said. “The IOC has always honored the memory of the victims of Munich ’72.”
Rogge led a minute of silence for the victims inside the athletes village on Monday, will attend a private ceremony in London during the games and will take part in a commemoration on the 40th anniversary on September 5 at the Munich airport where most of the Israelis died.
“We have always commemorated and will continue to commemorate the memory of the killed athletes,” he said.