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May 26, 2015 6:54 am

After Decades of IOC Silence, Slain Israeli Olympians Headed for Recognition

avatar by Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman / JNS.org

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an iconic image showing one of the hostage takers during the event known as the Munich Massacre, during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Photo: AP.

JNS.org“We have given the best years of our lives to remember—to remember the tragedy of what happened. … Now we are starting to see some light from all of our efforts.”

Such is the sentiment of Ilana Romano, widow of Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano, who was murdered by Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists along with 10 other members of the Israeli Olympic team during the summer of 1972 Olympics in Munich, West Germany. That fateful event became known as the “Munich Massacre.”

Since then, Romano and a handful of fellow widowers have fought for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to formally recognize the massacre with a moment of silence or official memorial. While the Games went on in 1972, the tragedy was shooed under the carpet. As recently as 2012, Romano and Ankie Spitzer, the widow of another Munich Massacre victim, pressed top Olympic officials over their refusal to honor the dead with a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of that year’s London Olympics—the massacre’s 40th anniversary. No such recognition was granted.

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But the playing field is starting to shift.

In time for the Rio Olympics in the summer of 2016, a first-ever IOC-supported official memorial telling the story of the Munich Massacre will be erected in Munich, on the grounds of the Olympic stadium. The memorial, whose groundbreaking ceremony will take place this summer, is being constructed at the initiative of the Bavarian government to bring a sense of closure to this 43-year drama.

Likewise, it was recently announced that the new president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, will erect an official site at the Rio Olympics for people to go and reflect on the loss of anyone who was hurt or killed in the Olympic Games—including the 11 Israeli victims.

In anticipation of the memorial, the Foundation for Global Sports Development (GSD) will release a new documentary examining what is widely considered the first act of modern terrorism. The film, “Munich 1972 & Beyond,” will for the first time unravel why and how the attack happened, its aftermath, and its importance in 2015 and beyond. Produced by Dr. Steven Ungerleider, author of “Faust’s Gold,” and GSP President David Ulich, the film will offer new research and information—some of which Romano says she has never seen herself.

“The IOC jumping in is the biggest symbolic step at this point,” Ulich tells JNS.org, noting the 40-plus year controversy about the IOC’s level of support—or lack thereof—in remembering the victims. The IOC is among the lead sponsors of the memorial and is supportive of the film.

“This was a very edgy, unpleasant, traumatic event,” says Ungerleider. “First there was denial, then it was buried, suppressed for whatever reason—political reasons, anti-Semitic reasons, racist reasons—and not until a year ago has someone stepped up and said, ‘Now we are ready to move forward, and we need to honor the past so we can move forward and remember those [killed] and never forget.'”

Ulich says the memorial is an important piece of the healing process between the Germans, the Israelis, and the IOC, as well as between the victims’ families and the world, and that the GSD documentary will “document that healing process.”

Ungerleider and Ulich are currently in the interviewing and filming process for their production. The essence of the film is to tell a story of redemption and reconciliation, and to talk about the upcoming memorial as a space for memory and mourning. While capturing the voices of the victims, the German police, members of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, and other officials, the producers hope to capture the spirit that “we are now moving forward,” Ungerleider says.

“There is not room for terrorism anywhere, especially on the Olympic grounds,” he says.

Since that 1972 massacre, security has been at the forefront of every Olympic Games. According to Ungerleider, an entire Olympic budget is around $15-$20 billion, of which close to $2 billion is spent on security. The IOC works closely with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Mossad, the U.K.’s Secret Intelligence Service, and other security bodies around the world.

Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, who served as an intelligence and strategic affairs correspondent for the Hebrew daily newspaper Haaretz and is the co-author of “Spies against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars,” says today the world does not need a reminder that terrorism exists. But through supporting the Munich memorial, he says, the IOC is demonstrating that it understands the need to combat terror.

“Americans do not need to be reminded after 9/11,” Melman says. “In Russia, Southeast Asia, China—terrorism is all over the place. More or less, most governments understand they have to fight terrorism.”

“The fact of the Games themselves, that after Munich the IOC decided to carry on—and it was a difficult decision—that should show we cannot be beaten by terrorism,” Jochen Färber, IOC President Bach’s chief of staff, tells JNS.org. “This memorial will help underlay that message and explain why we must never give into terrorism.”

Ilana Romano adds, “Now I can rest a little because I know that I am leaving the record straight for the next generation, from a historical perspective, so hopefully history will not repeat itself.”

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  • IOC is irrelevant. Who cares what these racists think do or say. We do not need recognition from anti Semites.

  • Noel Hershfield

    Since then I refuse to watch the games.The Olympic movement is totally a sham.Corruption,performance enhancing drugs,Racicsm,involvement by countries that are the worst human rights abusers in the world.

  • Michal Pasch-Nadjar

    I personally think that it is very sad, that the widows had to fight for so long, for there husbands to not be forgotten. It was the worst massacre in history at Olympic Games and something that should be mentioned in my eyes at each and every Olympic Games so that this should never happen again. One can forgive but never forget………I can NOT forgive nor forget what happened to our people ! Rest in peace Shalom

  • Brenda Erratt

    FYI things are “swept under the rug”. Children and chickens are “shooed” off the porch, or out of the house etc. Otherwise,good article.

  • Miriam S

    Elimination of terrorism would be nice as would recognition of and elimination of the rising incomprehensible anti-semitism. Reality however shows that there is increasing support of anti-semitism and a by-product of that is support of terrorism, or at least support of those who created terrorism. Let’s not be Islamophobic, however-of course.

    Enezio, I’m not sure what your point is. Please expand.
    Reality Check – how is Israel supporting “the creature” if he financed the attacks?

  • It’s about time

  • SARA RIFKA

    THERE IS NO REDEMPTION FOR THIS ACT OF MURDER OR IS THERE A RECONCILIATION OF THIS HORROR…..SAD THAT THE WIVES OF SUCH OLYMPIANS SHOULD BEG FOR THE HONOR THAT IS DUE…..

    EACH MORNING I WAKE UP AND THE WORLD IS GETTING SICKER…..

    THIS SOUL WILL NEVER FORGIVE NEVER FORGET AND NEVER LET GO OF BEING A RELIGIOUS JEW……..AFTER ALL WE COUNT FIRST…..YOU WANT TO PLAY….PRAY…YOU WANT TO BE INCLUDED THEN INCLUDE YOURSELF…..YOU WANT TO FIGHT WITH ME THEN FIGHT….I WILL WALK AWAY, LEAVE YOU ALONE IN YOUR WHINING AND MOVE ON……

    TOTALLY FED UP WITH JEWS WHO HATE JEWS…..OFF THE WALL DESTRUCTIBLE…….

  • Enezio E. de Almeida Filho

    If memory serves me well, all Arabs terrorists that masterminded this massacre in Munich were killed by Mossad after hunting one by one of them in 30 years. I don’t remember of any German from the Red Army who helped these Arab terrorists with weapons and ground information, if they were killed by Mossad. Am I missing anything on this historical fact?

    • Emmett

      Not all. One in particular is now head of the plo, has grown more financially wealthy from donations from terrorist supporting governments throughout the world, including Israel. Abbass/Abu Mazen.

    • Dshap

      None every barbaric terrorist who was involved in this horrific murderous act was hunted down by Mossad. The financier of the butchering of Jewish Athletes is none other than the terrorist holocaust denier mahmoud abbas who continues to incite, promote, and imho sponsor terrorism against Jews and now Christians as well.

  • Kris Kristian

    When will Israel prosecute the financier of that massacre, Abbas?
    Abbas should be taken to the ICC and charged with terrorism, murder, and causing hatred of Jews and Israel.\
    Abbas is no better than his master, Arafat.

    Israel shouldnot let that bastard off the hook.
    Time for the world to know the truth as to who he really is.

  • Bullfrog Europe

    May those precious & competent lives, tragically lost in the 1972 Munich Massacre, rest in peace. Our caring sympathies go out to the survivors and the families of those who were injured or murdered.

  • Reality Check

    I guess to the enlightened metro Jew, recognition from the nations is more important than eliminating the terrorists. Meanwhile, the very same creature who financed the Munich terrorist attack was not only given a free pass, he has been given the green light & is responsible for hundreds, if not thousands more attacks. Also, that creature is supported by past and present Israeli governments, among others. Perhaps Israel’s PM could appologize to all the nations(like Turkey)for Israel being the victim of terrorism & other crimes.

    • Arnold Powell

      Mahmoud Abbas was the fund raiser and financial controller of the Munich terrorist attack group, in addition to being the disciple and later successor of Arafat. More recently he established political ties with Hamas, a recognized terrorist group. But why should we be dismayed, did Pope Francis not describe him some days ago as an ‘Angel for peace’? The Papal antiSemetic psyche has remained largely unchanged these past 16 centuries.

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