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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Athens 2004 remembers Munich 1972
By Matthew Davis
BBC News Online, Athens

Ambassador Aram Aviram, left, and Moisis Constantini, president of the Jewish community of Greece, at a memorial ceremony  for the athletes killed at 1972 Munich Olympics
Thursday's ceremony was attended by Israel's ambassador to Greece (l)

Thirty-two years ago, 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the Munich Olympics, after Palestinian militants stormed the Israeli team headquarters.

Today, the athletes' families are still lobbying the International Olympic Committee to have a permanent memorial to the men incorporated into the Olympics' opening ceremony.

At a commemoration in Athens on Thursday night, IOC President Jacques Rogge paid tribute to the men he described as "brothers of the Olympic family".

Mr Rogge - himself an athlete at the 1972 Games - said the killings had "forever changed the relationship between sport and politics".


But the widows of two of the victims say the IOC has a duty to mark the deaths in an official way.

There is a lot of security in the athletes' village and it makes you remember what happened
Ariel Zeevi
Israeli athlete
Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer, told a crowd of more than 200 at the Israeli ambassador's residence: "More than 30 years have passed, but for, the families of the innocent victims, it seems like only yesterday.

"But why are we standing here, we should have this memorial in front of all the athletes.

"This is not an Israeli issue, this concerns the whole Olympic family."

The IOC says that to introduce a specific reference to the victims of the Munich massacre could alienate other members of the Olympic community.

Alex Gilady, an Israeli IOC official, told BBC News Online: "We must consider what this could do to other members of the delegations that are hostile to Israel."

'Clean games'

But the commemoration ceremony - attended by many members of Israel's current Olympic squad - comes just days after such hostilities came to the surface at the Games.

A gunman holds Israel's Andre Spitzer at gunpoint in Munich
Sports and politics came together with deadly effect in 1972
Iran had said that its judo champion Iresh Miresmaeili - disqualified for not making his weight - had been ordered not to fight Israel's Ehud Vaks because of Tehran's political boycott of Israel.

On Thursday the International Judo Federation ruled that politics had not played a role in the disqualification - and that there would be no sanction against the Iranian team.

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, speaking to the BBC after the memorial service, said Israel would be "considering the decision very seriously".

"Sport should be totally clean from any politics," the minister said.

But there was a poignant reminder of the link in the form of Israeli athlete Ariel Zeevi, whose bronze medal win in judo coincided with the commemoration and who attended the service.

No rest

Earlier Mr Zeevi told reporters: "There is a lot of security in the athletes' village here in Athens, and it makes you remember what happened.

"Terrorism is not just Israel's problem. Terrorist acts will always happen but I think that it is important that sport should always be pure."

0440, 5 Sept, 1972: Palestinians raid Israeli team HQ. Two athletes killed
0600: Ransom note demands release of 236 prisoners
1550: Games suspended
1700 Plan to storm building called off. Terrorists request jet
2200: Group transferred to helicopters
2330: As helicopters land, police aboard a decoy plane abort mission
0030: Police snipers and militants exchange shots
0100 Grenade thrown into one helicopter and bullets fired into other. All hostages, five gunmen killed
Relatives of the Munich victims said Thursday was the first time an IOC president had attended the service - the eighth to be held at an Olympic Games.

Also at the event was former IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Mrs Spitzer, who spoke after Ilana Romano, the widow of weightlifter Joseph, said she was "very pleased" that Mr Rogge had attended, but added: "We will never stop until we have this.

"Our demands are not great, but there must be a mention."

On 5 September, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian militant group Black September raided the Israeli team headquarters.

Two athletes were killed in their rooms, while nine others were taken hostage as the Palestinians demanded the release of political prisoners.

Over the next 24 hours, the tense stand-off between gunmen and police was played out in front of television viewers worldwide.

Three helicopters provided by the German authorities took the Israelis and the gunmen to a military airfield outside Munich, supposedly to catch a flight out of Germany.

Then a rescue attempt by the German police went wrong and ended in a gunfight.

The nine remaining Israeli hostages died, along with five of the eight gunmen and a policeman.

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