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IOC chief stands firm on refusing Israeli memorial at Olympics opening ceremony

President of International Olympic Committee says minute's silence to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Games massacre is not in keeping with the atmosphere of the opening ceremony.
In this 1972 photo, two West German border police helicopters that carried armed terrorists and their nine Israeli Olympian hostages stand at Fuerstenfeldbruck air force base near Munich. Nine of the 11 Israelis taken hostage at the Olympic Village died in a shoot-out at the base.
In this 1972 photo, two West German border police helicopters that carried armed terrorists and their nine Israeli Olympian hostages stand at Fuerstenfeldbruck air force base near Munich. Nine of the 11 Israelis taken hostage at the Olympic Village died in a shoot-out at the base.

LONDON // The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will not budge - there will be no minute's silence for the Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Games massacre at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

Jacques Rogge rejected the latest calls on Saturday for a special observance to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by militant gunmen.

"We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," he said.

The IOC has come under pressure from politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany to pay tribute to the slain Israelis during Friday's ceremony.

Mr Rogge said the IOC would honour them at a reception in London during the Games on August 6.

He added that IOC officials would also attend a ceremony in Germany on the anniversary of the attack, on September 5, at the military airfield of Furstenfeldbruck, where most of the Israelis died.

Mr Rogge said he has attended several ceremonies with the Israeli Olympic Committee and Israeli athletes during recent games.

"We feel that we are able to give a very strong homage and remembrance for the athletes within the sphere of the national Olympic committee," he said at a news conference.

"We feel that we are going to do exactly the same at the exact place of the killings at the military airport near Munich on the 5th of September, the exact date."

During the second week of the Munich Games, eight members of the Black September militant group penetrated the laxly secured Olympic Village and took Israeli team members hostage. A day later, all 11 were dead.

German police killed five of the eight assassins during a failed rescue attempt and Israeli agents tracked down and killed the others.

The Israeli and German foreign ministers and the US house foreign affairs committee have urged the IOC to observe a minute's silence.

Barack Obama, the US president, also supports the campaign for a minute's silence, said the White House national security council spokesman, Tommy Viëtor.

Mr Rogge was asked whether he was swayed by Mr Obama's view.

"We also pay big attention to recommendations coming either from the political world, or cultural world, or world of enterprise," Mr Rogge said. "And we make a decision taking into consideration [those recommendations].

"I will not say that we are necessarily following the advice, but we take it into consideration."

On Sunday morning, a memorial event will be held in East London attended by London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and Efraim Zinger, the head of Israel's Olympic committee.

On another issue related to Israel, Mr Rogge said the IOC would investigate any athletes who pull out of competing against Israelis in London by claiming they are injured.

In the past, athletes from Iran have withdrawn from Olympic events that included Israelis without facing sanctions.

"If an athlete is genuinely injured or ill, then of course it is understandable," Mr Rogge said. "But we will examine every case very thoroughly and we will examine every case with an independent medical team.

"If the medical team does not ratify the decision of the first doctor, then the athlete will be punished."

Mr Rogge said the IOC has reminded all national Olympic committees, not just Arab bodies, that refusing to compete against another competitor is "totally forbidden by the Olympic Charter".

Mr Rogge spoke after a day-long IOC executive board meeting. The full IOC will hold a three-day general assembly, beginning today.

With days to go until the opening of the London Games, Mr Rogge expressed confidence in the preparations, despite a week of reports about concerns over security, transportation and other matters. The focus has been on the failure of private security firm G4S to recruit enough guards to protect the venues, a blunder that forced the British government to call up an extra 3,500 soldiers to help.

Mr Rogge said the IOC has received full explanations from London organisers and the government.

"We are reassured that everything that is needed has been put in place," he said. "Yes, it has been an issue. It has been identified. Corrective measures were taken. I humbly believe it is time to move on."

Mr Rogge added that "common sense" would prevail in protecting sponsors from "ambush marketing" by brands not officially associated with the Games.

The issue gained prominence this week when London organising head, Sebastian Coe, suggested in a radio interview that a spectator wearing a Pepsi T-shirt might not be allowed into an Olympic venue because Coca-Cola is a main sponsor.

"Individual cases will not be pursued by the police, that goes without saying," Mr Rogge said. "But if there is a blatant attempt at ambush marketing by another company or by a group of people with commercial views, then of course we will intervene.

"If you have a T-shirt with the logo of a competitor of one of our sponsors, then we will not intervene."


Updated: July 23, 2012 04:00 AM

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