Hundreds of Israeli and international guests of all ages paid tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany by attending the annual memorial ceremony organized by the Olympic Committee of Israel. The event was held on Wednesday evening, September 13th in the heart of Tel Aviv, at the square dedicated in the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes.
During the event, the president of the Israel Olympic Committee; the German Ambassador to Israel, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Sport and Culture; the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, and representatives of the bereaved families all spoke. In addition, the Israeli scouts performed several songs and read short bios of the 11 athletes.
The ceremony began with the lowering of the flags and lighting of a torch. Israel Olympic Committee President Igal Carmi talked about the struggle to gain international recognition for the Israeli athletes murdered in 1972, and the recent successes towards that end. Notably, he mentioned a memorial ceremony held at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first of its kind, and the dedication of a memorial in Munich last week. The presence of the presidents of both Israel and Germany, as well as the families of the 11 athletes, were indicative of the importance of the Munich memorial, said Carmi, making the years of efforts well worth it.
Mehereta Baruch Ron, Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, mentioned that despite the passage of time, the pain for the bereaved families was still great. She stressed that the Olympics must bring the world together in unity, and highlighted the most recent Olympics, in Rio, as a successful effort to take a shared stand against terror.
The German Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Dr. Clemens von Goetze, talked about how the Olympics, from their inception in ancient Greece, were intended to be a celebration of brotherhood, peace, and humanity. In that regard, he noted that the events in Munich in 1972 was a failure to uphold those Olympic values. Moving forward, the ambassador focused on the duty to educate, seeing the recently dedicated memorial in Munich in that regard, as a reflection of the value of human life. Ambassador von Goetze quoted the president of Germany at the previous week’s memorial dedication ceremony, who admitted that it had taken far too long to put up an appropriate memorial to the victims, and expressed national remorse.
Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport, Mr. Yossi Sharabi, said that the 11 athletes were “ever present” in the Israeli national consciousness. Sharabi talked about the advancements made by Israeli athletes towards greater national recognition, highlighting that “we’re now on the [global sports] map,” and pledging to keep working towards recognition for the Munich victims, with the next goal being a moment of silence at the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Following a musical interlude by the Israeli Scouts band, members of the Horesh scouts group, including a descendant of one of the 11 athletes, read aloud short biographical descriptions of each of the athletes.
The most moving part of the evening came when Oshrat Romano, the daughter of Yosef Romano, one of the 11 athletes, spoke. She expressed the raw emotions that herself and the other families had experienced the week before in Germany, during the dedication ceremony. In a poignant account, Romano told of the bittersweet and raw emotional experience, on the one hand feeling a sense of victory for their deceased loved ones, finally achieving a suitable memorial on an international stage, but on the other hand, recalling the decades of pain and the feeling of having been treated with apathy by German and Olympic organizers in 1972 and for years afterwards.
Israeli Olympic swimmer Yaakov Tomarkin gave a brief remark on behalf of Israeli Olympic atheletes. Tomarkin described the unity and brotherhood felt in Rio during the 2016 Games, when athletes from all over the world came to attend the memorial ceremony held there for the 1972 victims. After Tomarkin’s remarks, the speakers and the families of the 11 athletes were called up to place wreaths on the memorial, before the ceremony closed with the singing of the national anthem.
Photos by Silvia G Golan
Steven Aiello is the founder of Debate for Peace