On 5th September 1972 inside Munich’s Olympics Village Israeli athletes were ambushed by Palestinian terrorists. Over the course of the day 11 Israelis were murdered after botched rescue attempts by the German authorities. A German policeman also died. The Games carried on.
Some of the terrorists died during the final rescue attempt at a military airbase but the others, held in German custody, gained their freedom after a plane was subsequently hijacked and a demand for their release was agreed to.
Mossad methodically went about locating and killing each terrorist, except one.
Common decency has it that those trusted into your care are remembered when tragedy occurs. British football grounds regularly resonate to a minute silence when one of the footballing community is lost.
But not where the International Olympics Committee is concerned and where Israeli blood was spilled under its auspices. Heaven forbid they should offend certain other competing nations.
At no stage has this tragedy been properly remembered since 1972; never a minute silence at any Games in the 40 years since. The only plaques to the murdered athletes are in Munich and Israel.
Ankie Spitzer, wife of Andre, the murdered fencing coach, asked the IOC for a minute silence during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics to mark the 40th anniversary of the attack but Jacques Rogge said the atmosphere of the opening ceremony made such a silence inappropriate. The IOC will, instead, go to the military airbase where the final botched rescue bid took place. Neatly out of sight and mind of those the IOC don’t wish to offend.
Anticipating this outcome the co-chairs of the Britain and Israel Olympic Plaque Committee Martin Sugarman (Chair Hackney-Haifa Twinning Association) and councillor Linda Kelly (past speaker of Hackney) raised funds for a dignified and moving ceremony yesterday morning at the Arthaus in Hackney.
Linda said she was amazed that with all the hours during the Olympics the IOC could not spare one minute for the memory of the murdered athletes.
The Conservative Party was represented by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Communities Minister Eric Picles MP, Matthew Offord MP and Councillor Brian Coleman.
Labour was solely represented by Andrew Dismore, GLA member for Barnet and Camden. The Miliband brothers were invited but one was busy and the other didn’t reply. No mainstream Liberal Democrat politicians bothered to come.
Maureen Lipman, who constantly fights Israel’s corner against the many hypocrites in the acting world, came.
Sebastian Coe, London Olympics organiser, was invited. Linda Kelly read out his reply which amounted to nothing more than “Sorry. Mad busy at moment”. Shame he couldn’t have used one of his ubiquitous VIP Olympics lanes to transport him to Hackney for even the 20 minutes or so that Boris Johnson managed to appear.
Meanwhile, the Simon Marks Primary School Choir beautifully sang Jerusalem of Gold, the Hatikvah, God Save The Queen and Oseh Shalom Bimromav, which preceeded Kaddish (Prayer for the deceased) for the athletes.
War veterans were there to present wreaths in front of the plaque, which was unveiled by Boris Johnson, and to perform the Last Post and Reveille either side of the minute silence for the athletes.
Yosi Romano, named after his uncle who was mercilessly gunned down in Munich, spoke movingly as did Ben Helfgott, a Holocaust survivor and British Olympian, who knew the murdered Israeli athletes so well.
Efraim Zinger, the President of the Israeli Olympics Committee, noted that this is the third time London has hosted the Olympics; in 1908 Israel didn’t exist, in 1948 they were fighting for their lives and, so, they didn’t want to miss out on London 2012.
Boris Johnson spoke of the “numb disbelief” in which the world watched events unfold in Munich in 1972. He was eight at the time.
The permanent plaque is available to be visited at the Arthaus in Hackney. Meanwhile, a big thank you to Martin and Linda, an anonymous donor, the Reuben Foundation, the Muriel and Gershon Coren Charitable Foundation and to Hackney and East London Synagogue for their hospitality