Recently, I sat with my sons in our Tel Aviv apartment and watched a documentary about the massacre at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Five days before the end of the games, eight Palestinian terrorists from the group Black September broke into the Olympic Village, killing two Israelis and taking nine others hostage. The Palestinians demanded the release of more than 200 prisoners from Israel. In an ensuing battle, all nine Israeli hostages were killed.
My oldest son, Tom, who is 11, was completely engrossed in the documentary. I noticed his face twitching the way it sometimes does when he’s nervous. Tom is a sportsman. He’s been sailing competitively for two years. It’s too soon to say if he is Olympic material (I suspect he’s more suited for the Math Olympics), but that’s what he’s working toward. He spends every weekend at sea and every school holiday competing. He understands the devotion it takes to get to the Olympics. He knows the passion of yearning for gold.
“The terrorists just killed all of them,” Tom told me when the documentary ended. Then he shared more details he had learned, as if repeating the facts would somehow make the story more believable. “How could something like that happen?” he asked.
2012 marks 40 years since the massacre. Since 1976, Ankie Spitzer, widow of murdered fencing coach Andre Spitzer, has been asking the International Olympic Committee to honor the memories of the murdered with a moment of silence at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. All her requests have been denied.
As the 2012 Olympic Games approached, Spitzer began to circulate a petition, which more than 70,000 have signed, requesting yet again that the IOC observe a moment of silence for the 11 victims during the 2012 London Olympics.
Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, sent an official appeal to the IOC. In May, his request was denied. “The International Olympic Committee has held official memorials for the athletes a number of times,” IOC President Jacques Rogge wrote. “The memory of the victims of the horrible slaughter in Munich in 1972 will never fade in the Olympic family.”