Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded at week's end to a letter he received from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, rejecting Ayalon's request to hold a minute of silence during the upcoming London Olympic Games in memory of the members of the Israeli Olympic team murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
“Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest,” Ayalon said.
“The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community. Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event,” he said.
IOC President Rogge’s reply was in response to Ayalon’s letter, sent a few weeks ago, requesting the minute silence on behalf of representatives of the families, Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of two of the murdered athletes.
“This rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is [ours] alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations,” Ayalon wrote. “This is a very disappointing approach and we hope that this decision will be overturned so the international community as one can remember, reflect and learn the appropriate lesson from this dark stain on Olympic history.”
Ayalon passed Rogge's response to the athletes' families, including Spitzer and Romano who advocated for the minute's silence. Ayalon told them that the Ministry will launch a campaign in the coming weeks that it is hoped would reverse the decision
Representatives Eliot L. Engel and Nita M. Lowey, Democrats of New York, also sent a letter to Rogge this month requesting a minute of silence during the opening ceremony at the London Games on July 27.
In their letter, Lowey and Engel said the large television audience for the opening Olympic ceremony provided “a unique opportunity to send a message that can literally reach every corner of the globe.”
“We are not persuaded by arguments articulated by members of the I.O.C. and others that a minute of silence would politicize the Olympic Games or risk alienating countries that have disagreements with Israel,” they said. “The Munich 11 were athletes, coaches and referees proudly representing their country when they were gunned down in an act of terrorism; a minute of silence would be a recognition of their sacrifice and a show of unity against terrorism, period, not an endorsement of any political position.”