Engel finds a way to commemorate Munich massacre

Aug 1, 2012
Adam Wisnieski
Riverdale Press
From the Riverdale Press

After the International Olympic Committee denied requests to hold a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli Olympians who were murdered in 1972, Rep. Eliot Engel and NBC sportscaster Bob Costas each took matters into their own hands.

In 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists of the Black September group broke into the Olympic village in Munich, kidnapped and eventually killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

Mr. Engel, who backed Israel’s request to hold a moment of silence at the Olympic opening ceremony in London on July 27, and along with his Jewish colleagues was able to garner support from Congress and President Barack Obama, led a moment of silence on the floor of the House of Representatives the day before the opening ceremony.

“In the 40 years since shamefully the International Olympic Committee has refused to have a minute of silence to commemorate these 11 martyrs,” Mr. Engel said on the House floor.

Mr. Engel said the IOC should be ashamed of itself.

“I have said that if any other country had their athletes brutally murdered by terrorists on Olympic soil, the IOC would have had multiple minutes of silence over the years in subsequent games. I fear that the IOC won’t memorialize the Munich 11 at the Opening Ceremonies in London because they were Israeli, and the IOC has bent over backwards to pander to the Arab world,” Mr. Engel said in a press release.

Locally, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said, though he was not a regular watcher of the Olympic games, he was not going to watch any of the events this year because of the IOC’s decision.

“I don’t want any part of it because it’s so offensive,” he said.

After receiving requests from Israel’s deputy foreign minister, the widows of two murdered athletes and many members of Congress, including Mr. Engel, the International Olympic Committee decided again that the opening ceremony was not the place for such a remembrance, even though this year is the 40th anniversary.

“We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident,” Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said, according to news reports.

Mr. Rogge said the IOC led a moment of silence at the athlete’s village earlier in the week.

But NBC sportscaster Bob Costas said he thought the IOC’s denial was “baffling” and noted that only about 100 people attended the remembrance at the athlete’s village. He held a moment of silence during NBC’s broadcast of the opening ceremony as Israeli athletes walked into the London stadium.

“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,” Mr. Costas said.