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Munich Olympic Widows Will Not Get Minute's Silence at London 2012 Ceremony

27/07/2012 13:00 | Updated 28 July 2012

Widows of the athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics have expressed their fury and frustration that no minute's silence will be held at the London 2012 opening ceremony.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told widows Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano that he would definitely not be holding a silence at the ceremony - which would mark 40 years and 10 Olympic Games since the massacre of Israeli athletes .

The two widows, whose husbands Andrei Spitzer and Yosef Romano were killed after being taken hostage by Palestinian Black September terrorists at the Munich Olympic village, handed a petition with 105,000 signatures to Rogge in London this week.

ankie spitzer

Widows Ankie Spitzer, right, and Ilana Romano after a meeting with IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Spitzer, who said she spent 45 minutes pleading with Rogge after handing in the petition, told The Huffington Post UK: "It was very frustrating and upsetting.

"He told us that he 'respected' our campaign. I said, I don't need your respect, I want you to respect the athletes who died.

"I told him we just wanted a gesture, we don't want it to be political. He doesn't even have to mention that they were Israelis or Palestinians. We just want him to acknowledge that Olympic athletes were murdered.

"He has a huge opportunity to stand in front of thousands of young athletes, many who were not even born when the 1972 Olympics happened, and to say 'never again'.

"Rogge was an athlete in 1972. I told him that him and my husband had the same dreams, but my husband came home in a coffin and Rogge went to be president of the IOC.

"He eventually leaned over the table, looked at me and said, 'I am not going to do it.'"

Spitzer and Romano have now returned to Israel. "We want to watch the ceremony with our families," Spitzer said.

jacques rogge

Rogge at the IOC Press Conference at the Olympic Park

Writing in The Huffington Post UK, BICOM's chief executive Dermot Kehoe argued holding a minute's silence is not unprecedented at Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

"The 2002 Winter Games opened with a minute of silence for victims of 9/11. The 2010 Winter Games opened with a commemoration for an athlete who died in a training accident [Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger]."

Cameron and Rogge, along with Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and LOCOG chair Seb Coe, will attend a memorial at the Guildhall, organised by the Israeli Olympic Committee, the Israeli Embassy in London and the Jewish community on 6 August. The widows will also return to the UK to attend.

David Cameron said on Thursday it was important to remember what happened in 1972, but backed the International Olympic Committee's decision not to allow a minute's silence at the Games.

Cameron said in a press conference at the Olympic Park: "It's right that in 2012 - 40 years on from the Munich Olympics - we remember the Israeli team members who were killed there.

"We will be properly marking the anniversary of that tragedy with a special commemoration and every day of these Games we'll be demonstrating that there is no more diverse, more open, more tolerant city in the world than this one."

Rogge held a spontaneous minute's silence, in the athlete's village, at the signing of the Olympic Truce on Monday.

The IOC president said it was to honour "the Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals and have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village.

"As the event of 40 years ago reminds us, sport is not immune from, and cannot cure, all the ills of the world."

It was dismissed by campaigners as a cynical move, aimed at silencing them.

David Kirschtel, chief executive of US Jewish community organisation JCC Rockland, which co-ordinated the petition, told The Huffington Post UK he was not satisfied by Monday's gesture.

"Those Olympians were murdered on television in front of millions. And we should remember them on the world stage, at the opening ceremony, when millions are watching, not at a meeting where 100 people are in attendance."

Sptizer said: "It was a trick, he knew we were not arriving until the next day. I don't understand why there has to be such game-playing."

The widows are now urging audience members at the opening ceremony to stand up spontaneously, in silence, when Rogge begins his speech, and for people around the globe to hold their own silence for the victims.

"Even if 100 people do it, this one small gesture, I will be so thrilled," Spitzer said. "I sometimes think I am the only person who still believes in the Olympic ideal, of international friendship and co-operation."

The call for a silence has been backed by US president Barack Obama and the US Senate, and governments around the world, from Canada and Australia to Germany have asked the IOC to reconsider.

More than 50 MPs, led by Conservative Bob Blackman, called for the silence to be part of the ceremony, and the London Assembly has called on Mayor Boris Johnson to put pressure on the IOC.

Holding a minute's silence is not unprecedented at Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

At the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic opening ceremony a silence was held for Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger killed in a training crash a few hours earlier.

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