July 29, 2012

The Italian delegation to London held a memorial for the Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich massacre in the Olympic Village today (July 29). More than 30 members of the delegation joined Italy’s sports minister Piero Gnudi in commemorating the Israeli athletes.

“We are doing everything we can to honor the 11 victims of Munich as Israelis,” Israel Olympic Committee secretary-general Efraim Zinger told the Italian contingent gathered at the doorway to the Israeli living quarters in the village. “But it must be remembered that they were also athletes, coaches and Olympic judges; that they were murdered during the Olympic Games; and as such they are like the children of the Olympic organization. It is our belief that it is a moral obligation for the International Olympic Committee to honor them in a respectable manner.”

Zvi Varshaviak, president of the Israeli Olympic Committee, said the one minute of silence by the Italians was touching and called it a “sign of solidarity and friendship.”

In Italy, hundreds of people, including mayors of local authorities, gathered outside Rome’s main synagogue on Thursday night for a memorial ceremony.

Meanwhile, the official line taken by the International Olympic Committee was to not hold a minute’s silence for the Munich 11.

Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat stood in protest in the VIP stands during IOC President Jacques Rogge’s speech at the Opening Ceremony. The official Olympic TV feed did not show Livnat standing during the speech, but it was shown on Israel Television.

NBC sportscaster Bob Costas remembered the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed in the 1972 Munich Olympics on air as the Israeli athletes entered the Olympic stadium in London.

“These games mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 tragedy in Munich, when 11 Israeli coaches and athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. There have been calls from a number of quarters for the IOC to acknowledge that, with a moment of silence at some point in tonight’s ceremony. The IOC denied that request, noting it had honored the victims on other occasions,” Costas said during the broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies as the Israeli Olympic delegation entered the stadium.

In London, more than 20,000 people attended the British Zionist Federation’s “Minute for Munich” memorial services at various locations in the city, including one at the Israel Embassy.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Olympic Committee will host five students from the Catholic University of America and their teacher, Professor Leszek Sibilski – a former Polish Olympic cyclist – on a special tour of the Olympic Experience museum in Tel Aviv as a thank you gesture for their social media campaign supporting a minute of silence at the London Olympics. Their petition garnered more than 100,000 signatures in support of a moment of silence to remember the murdered athletes.

The Americans came to Israel on Thursday and will stay until August 2.

“Our mission is to continue to raise awareness and to continue to push for peace and learn from history,” David Bauman, a senior sociology major, told USA Today. “The IOC has repeatedly said there won’t be a minute of silence, but the most important thing has been awareness. We’re just hoping that we can educate.”

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