Munich Massacre Families Irate over IOC's Decision

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Athletes and spectators will be gathering in London Friday night for the opening of the 30th Olympics.

It's supposed to be a festive time and a global television event. But Israelis and millions of others were also hoping to honor those who were killed in a terrible Olympic moment in Munich, Germany, 40 years ago.

Munich Massacre

For many Americans, the early part of the 1972 Munich Games revolved around swimmer Mark Spitz, who electrified the sporting world with what was then the greatest gold medal harvest in history, along with six world records.

But on Sept. 6, a series of shocking events unfolded at the games: Palestinian terrorists from a group called Black September broke into the Olympic Village. They took Israeli Olympic team members hostage and demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered, along with a West German police officer. Five terrorists died as well.

"They're all gone," veteran ABC sports correspondent Jim McKay delivered news of the tragedy.

Forty years later, a group led by Israeli victims' families is seeking to memorialize the Munich massacre. They presented a petition with thousands of signatures to International Olympic President Jacques Rogge, trying to get the International Olympic Committee to allow a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies.

They were turned down, however, after being told that the Committee would allow only some low key, more private commemorations.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his support for the IOC's decision.

"It's very important that we remember what happened in '72 and the loss of life and the appalling actions that were taken," he said. "I think those things are the right way to commemorate it, but I add my voice as it were to the need to commemorate properly, but I think that has been carried out."

Munich Widow 'Outraged'

Ankie Spitzer, widow of slain Israeli fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, was outraged by the IOC's decision.

"They were not accidental tourists," Spitzer told reporters Wednesday. "They came with dreams and came home in coffins."

"We are outraged," she said. "We are angry; we are sad..."

The decision also upset many Americans, including journalists. NBC News anchor Bob Costas said he would remember the athletes in his own way during the broadcast of the opening ceremonies.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, lauded Costas' decision.

"I think he's right, and I think it will make a difference because of who he is," Foxman said. "It's sad that one has to characterize it as courageous. It's such a commonsense thing to do."

Originally posted on Friday, Jul 27.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.