For Israelis, the start of another Olympics inevitably brings to mind the massacre at the 1972 Munich Games, when Palestinian gunmen snuck into the athletes’ village, killed two members of the Israeli team, and kidnapped nine others. Those nine were eventually murdered following a failed rescue attempt.
Ever since this brutal attack, widows of several of the slain athletes have petitioned the International Olympic Committee for a minute of silence at the opening ceremonies, only to be turned down year after year.
But this year, that all changed with the Place of Mourning, a new feature to grace the athletes’ village at every Olympics to honor those who have died at the Games. This new memorial, including two stones from ancient Olympia encased in glass, was dedicated yesterday at an emotional ceremony.
Widows of two of the 11 Israelis killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics got the recognition that they had so long sought with a ceremony and minute's silence at the Olympic village in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.
Ankie Spitzer's husband Andre, a fencing coach, was killed along with weightlifter Joseph Romano, whose wife Ilana Romano was also at the ceremony led by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.
"This is closure for us. This is incredibly important. We waited 44 years to have this remembrance and recognition for our loved ones who were so brutally killed in Munich," Spitzer told reporters at the newly established Place of Mourning. "That they would be really accepted as members of the Olympic family. It is what we wanted because they were members of the Olympic family."