International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach led Wednesday’s ceremony for 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were killed by gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“Today, the inauguration of the Place of Mourning give us the opportunity to remember those who have passed away at the Olympic Games,” Bach told a small crowd that included IOC officials, Israeli team officials, athletes and Spitzer and Romano
Families of the victims have
campaigned for years for the IOC to give special recognition to the Israeli dead.
Although the IOC has not granted their request for a minute’s silence at the Opening Ceremonies of Olympics Games, it inaugurated a Place of Mourning which will now be a feature at every Olympics.
“This is closure for us,” said Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andre Spitzer was a fencing coach with Israel’s Olympic team. “This is incredibly important,” she said.
“We waited 44 years to have this remembrance and recognition for our loved ones who were so brutally killed in Munich – that they would be really accepted as members of the Olympic family. It is what we wanted because they were members of the Olympic family.”
‘Moment of history’
Weightlifter Joseph Romano was also among those killed on September 5, 1972, when members of the Olympic team were taken hostage at gunpoint by Palestinians from the Black September group. The standoff ended up in a gunfight, at the end of which 11 Israelis had been killed, as well as five Palestinians and a German policeman.
“I never believed it is going to come,” said Illana Romano, Joseph’s wife. After 44 years I am happy for this moment of history.”
The Place of Mourning, in a leafy part of the Olympic village, incorporates two stones from ancient Olympia, encased in glass. Both Romano and Spitz were embraced by a tearful Bach during the ceremony.
Bach also read aloud the name of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died in a training crash on the eve of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
rc/jm (AP, Reuters)