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But memories do fade. Had my son not, by chance, seen a documentary about the Munich 11, he would not think of them in this summer’s Olympic Games. And having a small ceremony for the families of the slaughtered, attended by a few members of the IOC, will not help to keep alive the memory of the massacre. Nor will any plaque or memorial statue. Dedicating a moment of silence in front of the estimated 4 billion people who are expected to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games will.
When Ayalon asks for a moment of silence, it seems clear that he is doing so with a motive: He wants the world to acknowledge that Israelis were murdered. If the heads of the IOC were to honor his request, they would see themselves as making a nationalistic gesture, providing a public relations win to Israel at a time when its policies have increased its isolation.
But the so-called “Olympic spirit” is supposed to be above politics. “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas,” Chapter 5 of the Olympic Charter states.
In the apolitical spirit of the Olympics, then, the IOC should commemorate not the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed, but the 11 Olympic athletes. I do not object to the IOC’s decision to decline Ayalon’s request, I object to its decision to reject the request of Spitzer. The pleas of the widows and children of the dead are emotional, not nationalistic. This also seemed to be the opinion of the United States House of Representatives, whose Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a resolution June 7 that, favoring a moment of silence, stated, “The murdered athletes were not only Israelis; they were Olympians, killed not in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv but at the Olympics itself. Their murder was an attack not only on the Israeli Olympians and on Israel, but on the Olympics.”
In not allowing a moment of silence, it is the IOC that is casting a would-be apolitical situation as a political one. The decision doesn’t just turn its back on the families of the murdered athletes, it turns its back on the Olympic Spirit itself and destroys its validity. If there is such a thing as an Olympic family, as Rogge claims, then this family should stop to remember its own fallen members. Eleven murdered Olympians. No mention of state is necessary. No flags need to be waved. Just allow 60 seconds of silence for 11 powerful Olympians who arrived in Munich to compete for gold and instead were riddled with bullets.
Jessica Apple is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the diabetes lifestyle magazine A Sweet Life. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine.