by KERRI SACKVILLE
Olympic fever is upon us, and in the midst of all the excitement, I want you to take a moment, and imagine something. It’s not very festive, and it’s a little bit distressing, but it’s important, so I want you to bear with me.
I want you to imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning, and you turn on the TV to see the latest updates from the Games. And instead of a depressing medal tally, or the elation of Aussie gold, you learn that overnight, eleven of our male Olympic athletes and coaches were murdered in the village. You learn that terrorists stormed into their apartment, took them hostage, and gunned them down.
Imagine the horror you would feel. Imagine the grief experienced by our entire nation. Imagine the outrage we would feel, that our beautiful, young athletes were brutally killed at the Games of peace and goodwill.
Well, I can imagine that, because that’s what happened to eleven Israeli athletes and coaches forty years ago, in 1972, at the Munich Olympic Games.
At 4:30 am local time on the fifth of September, as the athletes slept, eight members of the Palestinian group Black September broke into the athlete’s village armed with assault rifles.
Moshe Weinberg and Youssef Romano were murdered in the initial attack as they tried to repel the gunmen. Nine of their teammates, including fencing coach Andre Spitzer, were gunned down by their captors during a bundled hostage rescue. The Israelis weren’t soldiers. They weren’t politicians. They were athletes and coaches, who had trained since childhood to compete in their chosen sports. And they were killed.
After a memorial service, the Munich Games continued as normal, although some teams and individual athletes made the personal decision to leave. As Dutch distance runner Jos Hermens was quoted as saying, “You give a party, and someone is killed at the party, you don’t continue the party. I’m going home.”
The London 2012 Olympic Games marks the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre. As is any anniversary of a death, this is a sad time for the people of Israel, and indeed for Jews around the world. To commemorate the deaths, the relatives of the eleven slaughtered athletes asked the IOC to observe a minute’s silence during the opening of this year’s Games.
The request was refused.
Despite support and petitioning from other world leaders, including Barak Obama, Julia Gillard, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the IOC remained resolute.
The IOC has argued that to commemorate the slaughter of the slaughtered Israelis would serve to politicise what is supposed to be a politically neutral event. Critics believe the IOC is bowing to pressure from Arab nations, who have previously threatened to boycott the Games if any commemoration was made.
I do not like to believe that anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism exists. However, I can only imagine the response if it had been eleven American athletes who were killed, or eleven Australian athletes, or eleven athletes from Asia, or Europe. I am pretty sure that there would have been a minute’s silence. After all, it’s really not so much to ask.
Sadly, the Israelis were afforded no such respect. All I can say is that I thought of the eleven murdered athletes during the opening ceremony, and I have thought of them each day since. And I humbly ask that you think of them too, and pray that such a horrific situation will never be repeated.
Kerri lives in Sydney with her husband and three kids. Her first book was “When My Husband Does The Dishes…” and her second book, “The Little Book of Anxiety“, is out now. You can follow Kerri’s blog here and catch up with her on Twitter here.