The opening ceremonies of the London Olympics were inspiring and fun. The organizers and the International Olympic Committee took plenty of time to celebrate people. They celebrated young athletes. The celebrated child patients of Great Ormand Street Hospital. They celebrated the aging Paul McCartney and Mohammed Ali. They celebrated human rights defenders by having them carry in the Olympic Flag. They had a moment of silence for the victims of the World Wars. They had a video tribute to the 52 people who were killed in the suicide bombings in the London transit system the day after the city won the Games in 2005.
They made time to recognize everyone except the victims most closely associated with the games, the eleven slain Israeli athletes and coaches from the 1972 Munich Olympics. The 40th anniversary of that outrageous act of terrorism was the perfect time to remember .
The surviving families asked only for one minute. A minute of silence among the several hours of the opening ceremonies. A few breaths long. A short yet profound period of solemnity. A moment’s reflection on fellow athletes killed by terrorists. Black September. Hardly an imposition. Was it too much to ask?
Why did the IOC refuse? The athletes were seized at the Olympic village and two were killed there. The IOC are afraid to upset the Arab nations. One widow, Ankie Spitzer, says she was told the moment of silence could spur a boycott among Arab countries. “If they don’t understand the Olympic spirit, they should stay home.”
At the ceremony, Jacques Rogge, IOC president, said: “Character counts far more than medals.” They will speak of the Olympic spirit, the fundamental value of fair play, but what they don’t do will speak louder than their words.
There is nothing like the Olympic spirit embodied in the individual athletes in the games. The heart, the emotions, the sheer guts and determination. This morning I read about Im Dong-hyun, an almost blind archer who broke the world’s record in a preliminary round. He has 10% vision in his left eye and 20% in his right. If only the IOC had the same inspiration.
For the next two weeks the Olympics will have great athletes, wonderful events and intense drama. But it will be missing one thing — respect.
It is just a matter of respect.