Olympic Officials, sport activists and Brazilian senior officials gathered to commemorate the Munich massacre which claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches in 1972, at a memorial ceremony on Sunday night.
In 1972, a Palestinian terror group called Black September took a number of Israeli athletes hostage in the Munich Olympic Village and demanded the release of prisoners. They murdered several of the athletes and others were killed during a botched German rescue attempt. The massacre claimed the lives of six Israeli coaches and five athletes, and a German police officer.
Brazil’s foreign minister, Jose Serra, said: “What happened in 1972 was one of the most lamentable episodes in the history of the Olympic Games, when fanaticism and intolerance [converged in a] deplorable act of terrorism”.
Members of the local Jewish community attended the event on Sunday evening at the Rio City Hall, as well as family members of the Israeli victims and Olympics officials from Israel and Brazil. Israel’s Honorary Consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, said: “The mayor opened the doors of his house in a gesture of great friendship with the Brazilian Jewish community and the whole people of Israel. It’s a unique moment for us Brazilian Jews”.
The massacre has not been commemorated at an Olympics since initial games when 80,000 spectators entered the Olympic stadium where there was a service, and even then 10 Arab countries refused to have their flags fly at half-mast like all the other nations.
The IOC faced criticism for refusing to hold a moment of silence for the Israeli victims during the opening of the 2012 London Games, 40 years after the attack.
In a further development from the Olympics, the Egyptian judo competitor, Islam El-Shehaby, who refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent has been severely reprimanded by the IOC and sent home from the Rio games. El-Shehaby rejected the outstretched hand of Or Sasson, who later won Israel’s second bronze medal of the games. The IOC said that El-Shehaby’s conduct was “contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit” of the Olympics.
This follows on from the IOC reprimanding the Lebanese team after they blocked the Israeli team from boarding their bus to the opening ceremony. Meanwhile, Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister, Miri Regev, said that terror “does not differentiate [between] people” and that “when we fight against terror, we look for peace”.