The Tokyo Olympics made history by honoring the Israeli team members killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics, marking the first time the games have recognized the slain athletes at an opening ceremony.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett led those commending organizers for holding a moment of silence at Friday’s opener at National Stadium for the 11 athletes and coaches, 49 years after they were killed by Palestinian terrorists in what became known as the “Munich massacre.”
“Today, for the first time at the Olympic Games, there was an official commemoration for the massacre of the 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympics. I applaud this important historic moment,” said Mr. Bennett. “May their memories be a blessing.”
Rep. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, called it on Twitter “an appropriate, historic & overdue moment to reflect on that horrific Olympic tragedy,” while the Israel Olympic Committee credited International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
“The International Olympic Committee fulfilled the wishes of the families of the 11 victims of Munich and the State of Israel and boldly mentioned the memory of the 11 victims of Munich at the opening ceremony tonight,” said Yigal Carmi, Israel Olympic Committee chairman, in a statement.
He said Mr. Bach, who is German, had promised that “the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics will commemorate the Olympic movement with the memory of the 11th Munich Martyrs, for the first time in history after 49 years, he promised, and kept his promise. We are grateful.”
Families of the victims had for years asked the International Olympic Committee to hold a moment of silence for the athletes, who were taken hostage on Sept. 5, 1972, at the Olympic Village by the terrorist group Black September.
Early on in the opening ceremony, the announcer offered a tribute to those who died during the novel coronavirus pandemic as well as “all the Olympians and members of our community who have so sadly left us.”
“In particular we remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic games,” the announcer said. “One group still holds a strong place in all our memories and stands for all of those we have lost at the games: the members of the Israeli delegation at the Olympic Games Munich 1972.”
Two of the victims’ widows, Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, were able to watch the ceremony at the stadium, which was otherwise closed to spectators due to pandemic restrictions.
“Finally there is justice for the husbands, sons and fathers murdered at Munich,” they said in a joint statement on the Times of Israel. “We went through 49 years of struggle and never gave up. [We] cannot hold back our tears. This is the moment we’ve waited for.”
Two days before the 2016 Rio Olympics, the IOC held a tribute for the victims at the athletes’ village in Rio de Janeiro, led by Mr. Bach, but this was the first time the slain Israelis had been commemorated during the Olympics.
At the Munich games, gunmen shot and killed two Israeli team members in their rooms and took the remaining nine hostage, demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and setting up a standoff with German police.
In the next 24 hours, all nine Israelis were shot and killed, as were five of the terrorists and one German officer, amid a botched rescue attempt.
The 1972 games, which ran from Aug. 26-Sept. 11, were suspended for about a day but not canceled.