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Olympics moment of silence: Widow of Israeli coach joins plea

July 25, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Ilana Romano, left, and Ankie Spitzer, widows of Israeli Olympic team members killed at the 1972 Munich Games, appear at a press conference in London in support of a public minute of silence for the 11 team members killed that year.
Ilana Romano, left, and Ankie Spitzer, widows of Israeli Olympic team members… (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- Days before the opening of the London Olympics, the widow of an Israeli coach slain at the 1972 Munich Games joined members of Congress on Wednesday in a last-ditch plea for a moment of silence to commemorate the 11 Israeli Olympians killed 40 years ago.

Ankie Spitzer, the widow of slain fencing coach Andre Spitzer, planned to be on hand in London on Wednesday to present to the International Olympic Committee a petition containing more than 100,000 names calling for a moment of silence at Friday’s opening ceremonies.

Members of Congress from both parties, along with both presidential candidates, have made a similar plea.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has declined to hold a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies. "We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident,’’ Rogge has said, according to published reports.

"While we enjoy the competition and cheer for our athletes, we must pause to remember the tragic events at the Summer Olympics 40 years ago,’’ Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

"If this were any other nation but Israel," Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) added, "there would have been a moment of silence a long time  ago." He accused the IOC of "playing political games."

There was no immediate response from the IOC to the latest plea. On Monday, Rogge remembered the victims of the 1972 massacre at an event at the Olympic athletes’ village, but those advocating a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies say such a moment should be seen by millions.

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Howard Berman of Los Angeles, the panel’s top Democrat, wrote the IOC president this week that his refusal to hold a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies has caused "sorrow and anger for the family members of the murdered Olympians, for the people of Israel, and for many other people across the globe. Worse, this refusal projects — mistakenly, one wants to believe — an ambivalence, if not indifference, about the tragic events of 1972 on the part of the IOC leadership.’’

In 1972, eight Black September terrorists invaded the Israeli quarters, killed two athletes and took nine other members of the delegation hostage while demanding the release of 200 Palestinian prisoners. The hostages, five terrorists and one policeman were killed in the ensuing rescue attempt by German security forces at a nearby airfield.

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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