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IOC head Rogge honours Israelis

Tuesday, July 24, 2012    

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LONDON (AP) — IOC President Jacques Rogge paid tribute yesterday to the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed in Munich 40 years ago, leading a solemn minute of silence in the athletes village.

It was the first time the IOC has honoured the slain Israelis in a ceremony inside an Olympic village.

Rogge has repeatedly rebuffed calls to hold a moment of silence during Friday's opening ceremony of the London Games. He said Saturday the opening was not the appropriate place to remember the Israeli team members killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Yesterday, Rogge chose a different venue and occasion to hold a special observance.

"I would like to start today's ceremony by honouring the memory of the 11 Israeli Olympians who shared the ideals that have brought us together in this beautiful Olympic Village," Rogge said. "The 11 victims of the Munich tragedy believed in that vision.

"They came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity. We owe it to them to keep the spirit alive and to remember them."

Rogge bowed his head as a crowd of about 100 people — IOC executive board members, dignitaries and Olympic athletes and officials — stood in silence for a minute.

"As the events of 40 years ago remind us, sport is not immune from and cannot cure all the ills of the world," Rogge said.

Rogge spoke from an outdoor stage during a ceremony promoting the Olympic Truce, a UN-backed initiative calling on warring parties around the world to end hostilities during the period of the games. Rogge and other officials signed the "truce wall" after the event.

Rogge and the International Olympic Committee have come under pressure from Jewish groups and politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany to honor the Munich victims during the opening ceremony.

"We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," Rogge said Saturday.

Rogge and the IOC will also honor the slain Israelis at a private reception in London during the games on August 6. The IOC will also take part in a ceremony in Germany on the anniversary of the attack on Sept. 5 at the military airfield of Furstenfeldbruck where most of the Israelis died.

During the second week of the Munich Games, eight members of the Black September militant group penetrated the laxly secured Olympic Village and took Israeli team members hostage. A day later, all 11 were dead. German police killed five of the eight assassins during a failed rescue attempt.

Still, Monday's tribute did not fully satisfy families and advocates for the victims.

Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andre coached the Israel fencing team in 1972, said in a statement that Rogge's "private moment" was just a "rehearsal" for what they expected of him on Friday.

"We will continue our efforts to have the memory of our loved ones honored at the opening ceremony," said Spitzer, who will speak at a news conference tomorrow in London.

The United States-based Anti-Defamation League criticised the IOC for an "irrational and stubborn" refusal to honor those who died.

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