LONDON – The widows of two Israeli Olympians killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics are urging spectators to stage a silent protest during Friday’s opening ceremony for the London Games.
Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano are demanding that London organizers recognize their husbands’ deaths and honor them at Olympic Stadium 40 years after the slayings.
The two women have asked audience members to stand in silence when International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge rises to speak at Friday’s ceremony. Since Olympic organizers have rejected a moment of silence for the 11 slain Israeli athletes and coaches, the widows say the silent protest will be a victory in their fight to have the men remembered at the proper place and time.
“They were not accidental tourists,” Spitzer told reporters on July 25, her hoarse voice rising with indignation. “They came with dreams and came home in coffins.”
The 1972 Munich Olympics were the first held in Germany since the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and was designed to blot out the tainted images of competition in Nazi Germany. But in the second week, the Black September militant group penetrated the laxly secured village and took Israeli team members hostage. Within a day of Sept. 5, 11 died.
The games were briefly suspended, but the Olympics were forever changed. Security costs soared and just kept rising with every Games.’For Spitzer and Romano, it was a simpler time. Ankie Spitzer and her fencing coach husband, Andrei, had just had a daughter, Anouk, who is also pressing the fight for the silent protest. They say Andrei was thrilled to be an Olympian – and believed firmly in the higher goals of the games.
Ilana Romano, meanwhile, had had a bad feeling about her husband Yossef’s trip to the games. Romano, Israel’s middleweight weightlifting champion, had injured his knee and dropped out after the clean-and-jerk event. He was set to return to Israel on Sept. 6 for an operation.
Romano tried to escape during the siege. Although injured and using crutches, Romano lunged at one of his captors, slashing him with a paring knife and grabbing his gun. Another militant shot him, and he was left to bleed to death in front of his bound teammates.
The widows took their message to the public in a news conference Wednesday, saying they were tired of hearing about how the hands of the IOC are tied by protocol. They hope that the IOC notices – and decides to act.
Nor were they moved by a tribute on July 23 at the athletes’ village, when Rogge in a surprise move led a solemn minute of silence. They are also not satisfied by the plan to honor the slain at a private reception in London on Aug. 6.
The IOC says the opening ceremony is not an appropriate arena to remember the dead, despite pressure from politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany. A committee started by a Jewish organization in Rockland, New York, has gathered more than 100,000 signatures for the moment of silence and count President Barack Obama among their supporters.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams defended the organization and Rogge, saying that it recognizes the deaths as a dark time for the Olympics.