By ignoring Munich Olympic massacre, Jacques Rogge plays games with tragedy and memories
by FILIP BONDY
July 26, 2012
LONDON - Bob Costas will do the right thing on Friday, more than Jacques Rogge has managed since he took over as president of the International Olympic Committee in 2001. Costas plans to offer his own remembrance on NBC marking the nearly 40 years since the Munich massacre, the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and a West German policeman by Arab terrorists. The broadcaster will point out that something is obviously missing, a moment of silence, when the 38-member Israeli team marches into the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony.
Rogge will remain silent, but for the wrong reasons: diplomacy, and fear.
"We will be present on the exact day of the killings, Sept. 5, at the military airport of Fürstenfeldbruck, where the killings actually happened," Rogge said, when pressed again on this issue. "We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident."
Costas says it is "baffling" and "insensitive" to ignore the anniversary at the ceremony. On this account, Costas is only half correct. It is surely insensitive, but not at all puzzling. Rogge and his predecessor, Juan Antonio Samaranch, have attempted desperately over recent decades to placate the Arab and Persian nations at these Games, fearing a boycott or worse. While he insists he cannot politicize the Olympics, Rogge has long ago done exactly that by ignoring outrageous shenanigans.
During his term in office, Rogge has forgiven the Iranians twice already for their unspoken policy that bars its athletes from competing directly against Israelis. Since the Islamic revolution 33 years ago, no Iranian athlete has faced an Israeli in any athletic event, anywhere, and surely will not to do so here in London. All along, the IOC has turned the other cheek on this policy, and figures to do so whenever necessary.
In 2004 at Athens, Arash Miresmaeili of Iran, the world champion judoka, purposely came in overweight so that he would be disqualified and not have to face Ehud Vaks of Israel. Vaks sobbed at this injustice, cried for Olympic sports and for Miresmaeili.
"This was not the way I wanted to win," said Vaks, a then-25-year-old English student. "Sport is more than two people fighting judo. I felt horrible for him. It's hard enough imagining the feeling when you lose. This is worse. Not even to let you fight? It's a small world in judo. I admire (Miresmaeili). If he had a choice, he would have fought."
Then again, four years ago in Beijing, Mohammad Alirezaei of Iran called in sick rather than dive into the same pool with Tom Beeri of Israel in a 100-meter breaststroke heat.
"I'm sorry he's losing his dream," Beeri said then. "But he wasn't the only competition. I didn't think of it for a minute. Anyone can be sick, if he wants to be sick."
The IOC, on both occasions, did nothing to penalize the sports body. Iran told the organization that, certainly, it would compete against any nation, including Israel. The IOC accepted that lie at face value.
Now we get this new test, and again Rogge is flunking. He oversaw a moment of silence at the Athletes' Village, a very private affair witnessed by very few. That was all.