Olympic President to Visit Israel for Ceremony Marking Munich Massacre Anniversary
by Shiryn Ghermezian
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach will visit Israel for the first time in September to attend a state ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the massacre at the 1972 Olympic Summer Games in Munich, Germany, in which Palestinian gunmen killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team.
Yael Arad, head of the Olympic Committee of Israel and Israel’s first-ever Olympic medalist, invited Bach to be the guest of honor at the event, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 21 in Tel Aviv, it was announced on Saturday. The last time that a president of the IOC visited Israel was 12 years ago.
Bach instituted at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics a minute of silence commemorating those killed on Sept. 5, 1972, at the Munich Olympics by members of the Black September terrorist group. At the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016, the IOC created a “Place of Mourning” in the Olympic village to commemorate those who died during the Games.
“In his decision to come to Israel, President Bach expresses the significance to the International Olympic Committee of the memorializing of the 11 members of the Israeli delegation at the Munich Olympics,” Arad said. “In this way he also continues his distinguished activities in their commemoration which he started at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and continued at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony with the one-minute-silence commemoration.”
Also attending the state ceremony will be President of Israel Isaac Herzog; families of the victims; survivors; Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport Hili Tropper; and other dignitaries.
Bach will arrive in Israel on Sept. 19 and stay in Tel Aviv for two and a half days. During his trip to Israel he will also visit Yad Vashem; be a guest of Herzog’s at the president’s residence in Jerusalem; visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; visit the Olympic Experience museum in Tel Aviv; and meet with Israeli Olympic medalists and families of the Israelis murdered at the Munich Olympics.
The Olympic Committee of Israel will host a series of memorial events throughout the month of September to honor those murdered in the Munich massacre. A number of dedication ceremonies will take place for naming monuments, sport stadiums, and municipal squares after the 11 murdered 11 Israeli Olympic delegation.
Bach’s visit comes in the wake of controversy in Germany, with families of the murdered Israeli coaches and athletes threatening to boycott a German commemoration of the massacre on Sept. 5 until a longstanding dispute over compensation is resolved.
The IOC also announced Monday that in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Olympic Games, it is releasing a four-part documentary series about Olympians who competed in the Munich competition and return to the city where it took place. The first two episodes of the series, by Emmy award-winning director Jonathan Hock, have already been released on Olympics.com.
“Throughout these stories, the Olympians touch on the tragic terror attack against the Israeli team at Munich 1972, which shook them and the world,” the IOC said in announcing the series. The final episode will follow 86-year-old Shaul Ladany, a Holocaust survivor who resettled in Israel, as he also returns to Munich. Ladany, a former race walker, survived the hostage attempt at the Munich Olympics and will share his memories of the events that took place that day.