Friday, July 27, 2012

In Memory Of The 11

TigerBlog remembers the morning in 1972 when the news broke from Munich that terrorists had taken Olympic athletes hostage.

At first, TB thought they had said the Australian athletes, which he couldn't figure out. Then he heard it again: It was the Israeli delegation.

As you know by now, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed that night in Munich, after a disastrous attempt by the West German police to rescue them from their Arab captors.

TigerBlog has read a great deal about the Munich Massacre, about the heroism of wrestling coach Moishe Weinberg as he held back the terrorists for as long as he could to enable others to escape, about how the International Olympic Committee insisted on continuing the Games after the incident.

And now it is 40 years later, and the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics will be held tonight, without a moment of silence in memory of the slain Israelis. To that, TB says this: A moment of silence would be an insult to their memory.

No, what would be appropriate is a long commemoration, with a permanent monument to them at these Games, with an acknowledgement that the IOC has been negligent through the years in honoring the athletes and coaches who came to Munich in 1972 to compete in peace. Any nation that objects should be expelled from the Games.

That would be a proper way to remember the 11 who died. A moment of silence at the Opening Ceremonies wouldn't cut it.

It's not the right time for such a remembrance, especially one that wouldn't be respected by many of the countries who will be there.

The Opening Ceremonies are a time for festivity. For most of the athletes, TB assumes that the Opening Ceremonies will be their No. 1 memory of their Olympic experience, especially those who know they have no chance to come home with a medal.

But to walk into the Olympic stadium dressed in your country's uniform, alongside all of the other athletes from all of the other countries? TB can't imagine the pride, the excitement, the awe, the life-affirming euphoria of that moment.

Think about it. For so many of those who are competing, the Olympic Games have been a goal for years and years, requiring so much sacrifice and commitment. The sense of validation that must come from being part of the Opening Ceremonies has to be unthinkable.

Oh, and while we're talking about the Opening Ceremonies, TB thought that it was pretty disingenuous of so many members of Congress to talk about their utter contempt that the U.S. uniforms were made in China. Instead of complaining, maybe they should ask themselves why they're made in China.

Princeton's Olympic contingent consists of 16 athletes, which is five more than, say, Costa Rica's 11. In fact, 103 countries will be sending fewer than 10 athletes to the Games.

Diana Matheson has already played one Olympic game in women's soccer.

By the end of the weekend, 11 Princeton athletes will have competed.

Princeton's official athletics website,, will have a daily update on each athlete who will be competing and their results.

Hopefully, the London Games will go off without any hint of a repeat of what happened in 1972 to the Israelis. Hopefully, these Games will be peaceful, a reminder of how athletics can bring the world together in a positive fashion like no other single endeavor.

Still, it won't change what happened on that September day in Munich 40 years ago. The 11 who were killed should be honored, in an appropriate way, respectful and dignified way.

Here are their names:

David Berger (weightlifting)
Ze'ev Friedman (weightlifting)
Yossef Gutfreund (wrestling referee)
Eliezer Halfin (wrestling)
Yossef Romano (weightlifting)
Amitzur Shapira (track and field coach)
Kehat Shorr (shooting coach)
Mark Slavin (wrestling)
Andre Spitzer (fencing coach)
Yakov Springer (weightlifting referee)
Moshe Weinberg (wrestling coach)

Yakov Springer had participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and survived the Holocaust.

The average age of the athletes was 26 years old.


CAZ said...

Well said - Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes in life there are moments of clarity...this is one. It's shameful these athletes have not been given their proper respect. And, yes, if any country objects, they should be immediately expelled.

Thanks for saying something so simply.