Question: If Olympians die during the Olympic Games, do they deserve a moment of silence?
Question: If nine Israeli Olympians were murdered by members of the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September at the 1972 Munich Games, do they deserve a moment of silence at the 2012 London Games, the 40th anniversary of the attacks?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), in an attempt to be a-political in the spirit of the games, decided to do nothing to honor the memories of these Olympians and their coaches at the Opening Ceremonies. Ironically, this inaction not only tastes of politics, it makes it more than what it should ultimately be: a tribute to Olympians and not a partisan endorsement of Israelis over Palestinians.
The Olympics are about sportsmanship. They are about sending one's best athletes to a worldwide competition in a festive and light mood “to celebrate similarities.” Of course, events like these will surely have elements of historical significance looming in the backs of the minds of fans and athletes – this was on display during the Euros only a month ago.
But when athletes are killed at the games, it should be a loss for the entire Olympic community. Celebrations of death should be on par with glaring silences, and during anniversaries the silences are most deafening.
Some argued that the IOC decided not to honor the memory of the Israeli Olympians for fear of an Arab boycott. If this hearsay is true, shame on the IOC and the Arab states for even entertaining such thoughts. IOC President Jacques Rogge decided to hold a moment of silence at the Olympic Village this past Monday, so not as to interfere with the mood of the opening ceremonies. About 100 people showed up. Tell me, Mr. Rogge, the world witnessed the horrifying acts in 1972, but they are barred from collectively remembering the memory victims now?
Athletes leave behind their families, friends, occupations, and such to focus on being Olympians and to win medals. The memorializing of the dead for political causes should be left to their respective countries and not at the Olympics, where politics is checked at the door. This is why we have war memorials erected on battlefields where our respective men and women fell, whether the world deemed the actions to be good or evil.
Athens, Munich, Atlanta, Seoul, Beijing, London and all the rest of the host cities were “battlefields” of a different kind. They are battlefields of metaphor, and sport is not immune from military innuendo, as many of us fans can recall. But when the metaphoric and the literal collide, as they did at Munich 40 years ago, a stand must be made on the side of the Olympians – of all Olympians – and not of the political actors.
I hoped the IOC was better than this, and so does NBC’s Bob Costas, who will host his own moment of silence. I hoped that they would put aside the demonyms and see only Olympians who just wanted to compete.