In less than two months, the Games of the XXX Olympiad will take place in London; a sporting pageant featuring athletes from over 200 nations competing in 26 sports and a total of 39 disciplines. The programme will cover nineteen days and hundreds of hours of competition and yet, the International Olympic Committee cannot find a minute to spare during the Games to honour the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists forty years ago at Munich.
The organisers would no doubt insist that their refusal of such a request on behalf of relatives of the athletes has nothing to do with politics or the fact that Arab and Muslim countries make up more than a quarter of the participating nations or to avoid embarrassment to the Palestinian contingent which is competing at the games under its own flag and whose current President, Mahmoud Abbas, was responsible for the financing of the Munich attack.
IOC spokesman Andrew Mitchell says that “the victims are honored on a regular basis by the IOC and the Olympic movement, for instance, on the occasion of IOC sessions,” but such sessions are not public and the victims and their relatives deserve more respect.
As a recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post noted, “a moment of silence does not seem to be too much to ask, especially considering the brutality of the murders and the fact that the victims were killed not on the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv but rather inside the Olympic village as participants in the Games” (see more).
It should be remembered that when Baron Pierre de Coubertin established the modern Olympic movement at the end of the 19th Century, his goal was to use the Games to build a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sports. He wanted to create opportunities for sport to be practiced without discrimination.
Regrettably, while the IOC's insensitive stand in not honouring the slain victims of the Munich massacre runs counter to the ideal of the Olympic spirit, this is nothing new when it comes to the Jewish people and the Olympics.
The Games of the XI Olympiad which were held in Berlin in 1936 were a propaganda triumph for the Nazi regime after an IOC edict that “in principle the German Jews would not be excluded from the Games of the XI Olympiad” went unheeded.
For more than three years after his accession to the Chancellorship, Adolph Hitler waged a relentless war against the Jews. Their stores, businesses and professionals were subjected to a State-sponsored boycott and they were systematically purged from the public service and later from the arts, theatre, media and sports.
Julius Streicher wrote in Der Sturmer, “We need waste no words here. Jews are Jews and there is no place for them in German sports”. One young Jewish sportsman, Fritz Rosenfelder, took his life after he was expelled from his Wurtemburg athletics club.
By the summer of 1936 when the Games were held, half of the Jewish workforce was unemployed. It was only a matter of time before Jews would not only be deprived of the amenities of life but also of its necessities. The seeds of the Endlosung (“Final Solution”) were being sown.
Still, the propaganda value of the Games was far too valuable for the Nazis who engaged Josef Goebbels to ensure that the facade of German grandeur would overshadow the degradation to which the Jews were being subjected.
Their cause was not helped by an investigation by Avery Brundage, then President of the United States Olympic Committee, into the position of the Jewish athlete in Germany. Brundage interviewed German Jewish leaders (heavily chaperoned by Nazis) and concluded there was no cause for concern. It should be noted that Brundage had a share in Montecito Country Club in Santa Barbara, California - a club that admitted no Jews and no blacks to the ranks of its members.
The Berlin Games opened on 1 August, 1936 with the Greek, Spiridon Louis who won the first modern Olympic Marathon race, presenting the Fuehrer with an olive branch from the sacred grove at Olympia - the symbol of peace.
Of course, the boycotts and the oppression led to something far more sinister but the world was more consumed with happier days and with getting itself out of economic depression than with the Nazis and their threats against the Jewish people.
The Berlin Games were the world's first major sporting tragedy and the irony was not lost when Jewish athletes were massacred again on German soil 36 years later in Munich.
The world has changed again since Munich and there are those who would prefer us to forget the lessons of the two Olympic tragedies. There are those who would revive the boycott in business, the arts, the theatre and in sports but this time they call for a boycott of the Jewish State. Some of them would prefer not to let the world know that their objectives are to deligitimise and ultimately destroy that State while others still, attempt to make light of the nature of the threats posed by those who fire missiles at Israeli citizens or threaten it with nuclear annihilation.
There are those who even seek to downplay the horrors of the past and to airbrush out of existence the murders such as those committed in Munich in 1972 in front of the world and in the eyes of those who gathered at a sporting event convened in the name of peace.
This is a report from the Guardian (whose sports journalists put its political writers to shame these days) and it covers the event well - Stunning Olympic Moments: Munich 1972.
By 1972, Avery Brundage had risen to the Presidency of the IOC and I have often wondered what thoughts must have gone through his mind when he sat stone faced as the orchestra played Beethoven's Eroica Symphony in the Munich Olympic Stadium, a matter of a few kilometres away from the ovens of Dachau.
But even under Brundage's reign at the IOC, they put the Games on hold for a few hours in memory of athletes whose lives were stolen in Munich. Today, to their everlasting shame, they won't spare a minute for them.
*Jack Chrapot is a Melbourne lawyer and a member of the ZCV Executive. He is also a Maccabi Hall of Famer and served on the Executive of Maccabi Victoria, the Ajax Football Club, the Ajax Junior Football Club (AJFC) and the Ajax Maccabi Athletics Club and is a life member of the AJFC and the South Metro Junior Football League. The views expressed are his own.