The Olympics: Remembering Munich … Or Not
Every Olympics (summer or winter) NBC treats us to the background stories on the athletes participating in the games. Sometimes I get the feeling it's a rub-your-nose-in-it-you-selfish-decadent-Americans tone, mostly when it deals with an athlete from a foreign country. (If I had to hear the heart-tugging story of orphaned and abandoned young Russian figure skater Oksana Baiul one more time I was going to scream.) Anyhow, I typically do not mind the back-stories. It takes one hell of an effort, perseverance, and fortitude to fight to this level of competition on a word stage, especially if you come from an impoverished background or nation. I also recall a mention, one winter games, of Team USA's hockey team giving hockey tape and other supplies/gear to another country's team (it might have been Russia's team after the fall of the USSR) that was so short on funding they were struggling just to get their team on the ice for matches. THAT'S what it's supposed to be about. That is the spirit of the games. Yes, the individual personal stories really are important and pertinent to the international games. So, by all means, let's hear them. The Munich Massacre is, itself, a background story of the Olympics.
However, the IOC's bristling resistance to acknowledging and honoring the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed in Munich at the summer games 40 years ago, what I view as one of the world's first deadly terror attacks, has been astonishing. The IOC President Jacques Rogge paid slim tribute within the athletes' village in London in a moment of silence...
"I would like to start today's ceremony by honoring the memory of the 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals that have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village," Rogge said. "The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision.
"They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep the spirit alive and to remember them."
Rogge bowed his head as a crowd of about 100 people – IOC executive board members, dignitaries and Olympic athletes and officials – stood in silence for a minute.
"As the events of 40 years ago remind us, sport is not immune from and cannot cure all the ills of the world," Rogge said.
"100 people"?!? ... When I recall, as a kid, sitting with the rest of the world stunned for hours in front of a TV watching the devastating attack unfold, and then being informed that the members of the Israeli team had been killed, and that Jewish American swimmer Mark Spitz, who had become platinum gold in those games, was under tight security for fear an attempt on him might be in the wings.
Previously he refused to have even such a moment in the opening ceremony, so I find this a pathetic quieting of pressure. The IOC's blatant omission of public recognition on the anniversary of the horrific event that took place on their watch 40 years ago did not sit well with sportscaster Bob Costas of NBC.
As the athletes marched in Friday, Costas said that IOC President Jacques Rogge led a moment of silence for the late Israelis this week before about 100 people at the Athlete’s Village.
“Still, for many, tonight with the world watching is the true time and place to remember those who were lost and how and why they died,” Costas said.
After a five-second pause, NBC cut to a commercial.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which promotes Jewish causes, said he appreciated Costas bringing up the issue, though he didn’t expect a moment of silence.
“He established a sense of history and decency and sensitivity, I would say, in the tradition of Jim McKay,” Foxman said. The late McKay is the former ABC sportscaster who anchored coverage of the 1972 attack.
Well, apparently even if the IOC had planned something of tribute for the murdered Israeli athletes in Munich NBC would have dumped-out anyway to sell some GE washing machines...
The smugness of the IOC, and the other nation's and their athletes who refuse to even compete with the Israeli team, is bad enough. These countries are supposed to attend with the spirit with which the games were founded thousands of years ago, and allegedly upheld in the 21st century. If you know your athletes will not play against the Israeli team (or any other team) as a show of political or vengeful statements then your team and athletes should be removed from the games. Alas, we live in not only a politically correct world, but a world in which we appease the non-PC of other nations that refuse to coexist with others. But when I read comments around the internet on this topic of the IOC's slighting of the 40 year anniversary of the Munich Massacre from people claiming this story is not news and not deserving of attention I am, quite honestly, disheartened.
Hopefully, after the deadly lax security of the IOC 40 years ago, future games will not fall into the category of the old saying about those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, even as the media insists on painting Mitt Romney's London Olympics remarks as a 'gaffe' ... especially in these times of ongoing terrorist threats.
For the 1972 Munich Olympics Eleven, we remember ...
Cross-posted @ CW