LONDON — A minute of silence carved out of a three-hour opening ceremony is not too much to ask. It works out to little more than five seconds for each victim. Besides, the widows and families of the Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Games have been waiting for 40 years.
International Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge, who competed as a yachtsman for Belgium that summer, gave them little hope it would happen in the next 40 years, or ever. Yet he and his IOC swells had no problem observing that exact same minute of silence for a Georgian luger killed in a crash just hours before the opening ceremony at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Try to work out the moral calculus on that one.
“My husband was murdered on Olympic soil,” Ilana Romano said.
And that’s why she thinks it’s only fair that he should be commemorated there, too, on the games’ grandest stage, instead of at impromptu and out-of-the-way services that few people see and even fewer can derive any satisfaction from.
Like so much else about this tragedy, they refuse to believe that’s a coincidence.
“They were not accidental tourists,” said Anke Spitzer, whose husband, Andrei, was a fencer. “
They came with dreams and came home in coffins.”
The two women left a meeting Wednesday with Rogge more discouraged than ever.
Despite presenting a petition with more than 100,000 signatures as well as the support of a handful of nations, U.S. president Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Spitzer and Romano left with the same answer they’ve received for decades: No.
At a news conference afterward, they ticked off the reasons given each time their request for a moment of silence was denied: the threat of a boycott by Arab nations; a refusal to inject politics into the games; wrong time, wrong place. Always something or other wrong.
Spitzer believes those are all code for the real answer.
“They came from the wrong country,” she said, “and the wrong religion.”
So this time, the two widows are appealing directly to the audience at tonight’s opening ceremony, asking spectators to stand in silence when Rogge takes the stage to speak.
The Israeli Olympic Committee, which has compliantly followed the IOC’s lead in the matter through the decades, plans no departure from the delegation’s standard entry.
Whether the rest of the world’s athletes will respond remains anyone’s guess.
Bob Costas, who has been the lead host of NBC’s Olympics coverage for 20 years, told the Hollywood Reporter that he intends to take note of the IOC’S stance when Israeli athletes enter the Olympic Stadium.
He has offered no specifics.
If the silent protest fails to have much impact, Spitzer’s daughter, Anouk, who born just before the Munich Olympics, says she’s prepared to carry on the fight for another 40 years.
From the sound of things at the IOC, she’d better be.