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IOC defends stance against moment of silence for Israel's 'Munich 11'

A memorial service is held during the 1972 Munich Olympics for the Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists.

Story highlights

  • The IOC does not foresee a commemoration during the opening ceremony
  • The organizing committee says it has paid tribute to their memory
  • An Israeli official is campaigning for "just one minute" during the Games
  • IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend Israel's memorial reception

The International Olympic Committee on Monday defended its stance against a moment of silence at the London Games for Israel's 11 athletes and coaches killed by terrorists in 1972, a response that follows an Israeli official's vow to pressure the organizing committee to change its position.

"The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. The memory of the victims is not fading away. One thing is certain, we will never forget," Andrew Mitchell, an IOC spokesman, told CNN.

IOC President Jacques Rogge will attend the Israeli team's traditional reception in memory of the victims at the Games, "However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games," he said.

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The IOC's response comes after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon took to social media last week, repeatedly tweeting a plea for support and directing people to an online petition after the request for a moment of silence was declined.

"All we ask for is 'Just One Minute!'" Ayalon said on Twitter and Facebook messages that directed people to a petition sponsored by Ankie Spitzer, whose husband -- fencing coach Andre Spitzer -- was among those killed by the Palestinian terror group Black September.

Rogge, in a letter to Ayalon last week, said the IOC had "officially paid tribute" on several occasions and would continue to do so in consultation with the Israeli Olympic Committee.

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Ayalon, in a written statement, said the response was unacceptable.

"This rejection told us as Israelis that this tragedy is yours alone and not a tragedy within the family of nations," the deputy foreign minister said.

For nearly four decades, Spitzer and others have lobbied the IOC to memorialize the members of the Israeli Olympic team with a moment of silence during the Summer Games.

While Mitchell, the IOC spokesman, did not directly address Ayalon's response in an e-mail to CNN, he said the 11 athletes and coaches were honored at the Munich Games and again on the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the killings when Rogge attended memorial commemorations.

"The victims are honored on a regular basis by the IOC and the Olympic Movement, for instance, on the occasion of the IOC Sessions," he said.

Mitchell said the attack on the athletes was a defining moment in many ways, "not least of all on the security front."

"Since then, the IOC has put security on the top of its agenda, relying of course on the host city government to put in place measures in the hope of avoiding such a tragedy in the future," he said.

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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, Germany.

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.