Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Widow of Munich victim makes plea for Olympic minute of silence

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge rejected calls for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge rejected calls for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activists want a minute of silence at the opening ceremony for 11 Israelis killed in 1972
  • Rep. Eliot Engel of New York accuses the IOC of "playing political games" by saying no
  • The International Olympic Committee head says it's not the right venue for the tribute
  • 11 Israelis, a German policeman and 5 terrorists were killed in Munich 40 years ago

London (CNN) -- The widow of an Israeli Olympian killed in a terrorist attack on the 1972 Munich Games made an urgent plea Wednesday for a minute of silence at the opening ceremony to remember her husband and 10 other Israelis murdered 40 years ago.

Ankie Spitzer was joined by three members of Congress and top American Jewish community leaders in the effort to make the International Olympic Committee change its stance.

The head of the International Olympics Committee has rejected repeated calls for a moment of silence during the opening ceremony, despite the urging of President Barack Obama, his Republican rival Mitt Romney, and other public figures.

"We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said Saturday.

He reportedly participated in a small ceremony in the Olympic Village on Tuesday, but William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America said Wednesday that was not good enough.

"There is a need for a larger moment that the world can participate in," he said.

More than 106,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a moment of silence in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian militants at the games in Munich, Germany, 40 years ago. A German policeman and five of the attackers also died.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, Wednesday accused the IOC of "playing political games."

"For those of the IOC who say that this (moment of silence) is political, I would say just the opposite: If this were any nation other than Israel, there would have been a moment of silence long ago," he argued.

The 1972 attack "disrupted the sanctity of these Games, which are not supposed to be political," he said, calling a minute of silence "a matter of decency."

Engel, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York and Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, all Democrats, have written a joint letter to the IOC urging it to allow the minute of silence on Friday.

Read more: Obama says yes to Olympic tribute

Open Mic: Israeli terror threats
'Contingencies' for Olympic security
UK officials downplay security issues
Extra security for Olympic games

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has also been a vocal proponent, campaigning on Facebook and Twitter for "Just One Minute" of silence.

The refusal of the IOC to back the plan "told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations," Ayalon said in May.

Spitzer, whose husband, Andrei, was among those killed, was the first to sign the petition.

"They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins," she writes in the online plea.

She says she has "no political or religious agenda. Just the hope that my husband and the other men who went to the Olympics in peace, friendship and sportsmanship are given what they deserve. One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again."

Rogge said Saturday that the IOC would "be present" at the September 5 ceremony honoring the dead at the site where they were killed in Germany.

"We are going to pay a homage to the athletes, of course, as we always have done in the past and will do in the future," he said.

The attack began in the early hours of September 5, 1972, when eight Palestinian terrorists disguised in track suits broke into the Olympic Village in Munich.

Read more: Can we feel safe in a crowd anymore?

They stormed the apartments housing Israeli athletes and coaches, killing two and taking nine others hostage. Hours later, the world woke up to the image of a masked man on the balcony of the Olympic Village.

From the Olympic Village, the militants demanded the release of 200 Arab inmates from Israeli prisons or they would start killing the athletes in Munich, one every hour.

Israel refused to negotiate, and the terrorists demanded an airplane to Egypt. The German government then attempted a rescue at the airport. When it was over, all the Israelis, five terrorists and one German police officer lay dead.

The Munich Games were temporarily suspended, and a memorial service attended by some 80,000 people was held at the Olympic Stadium.

Opinion: Olympics, mark dark day in Munich

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
updated 5:44 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
updated 9:52 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
updated 11:05 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
updated 8:40 PM EDT, Thu August 9, 2012
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
updated 8:46 PM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
updated 3:30 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Sat August 4, 2012
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?
ADVERTISEMENT