We Won’t Be Watching The Olympics

Olympic Silence.

There is one upside to the IOC’s refusal to remember the Israeli victims of terror at the 1972 Munich games is that it is more proof to anti-Semites that we do not control the world. Small comfort.

I am unsure whether I feel a moment of silence for the slain athletes would have been appropriate, or even enough. We are further removed today from the events of Munich than they were from the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where the only two American Jewish Olympians were pulled from competition at the last minute. Granting a moment of silence to remember events that preceded the births of much and the audience and nearly all of the athletes will not touch hearts. We need to find a means with more meaning, and we need to be more clear about what we intend to accomplish with the memorial. Either way, we should ensure that any memorial have lasting effect.

I am no apologist for Avery Brundage, the U.S. Olympic official who supported the removal of Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman from Olympic competition in 1936, exclusion that almost surely cost them medals, possibly golds, and has been accused of bending to pressure from the Nazi government to exclude them. Ironically, Brundage was President of the International Olympic Committee during the Munich Games in 1972, and gave a moving speech during the height of the crisis:

Every civilized person recoils in horror at the barbarous criminal intrusion of terrorists into the peaceful Olympic precincts. We mourn our Israeli friends, victims of this brutal assault. The Olympic flag and the flags of all the world fly at half mast. Sadly, in this imperfect world, the greater and more important the Olympic Games become, the more they are open to commercial, political and now criminal pressure. The Games of the 20th Olympiad have been subjected to two savage attacks. We lost the Rhodesian battle against naked political blackmail. We have only the strength of a great ideal. I am sure the public will agree that we cannot allow a handful of terrorists to destroy this nucleus of international cooperation and goodwill we have in the Olympic movement. The Games must go on and we must continue our efforts to keep them clear, pure and honest and try to extend sportsmanship of the athletic field to other areas. We declare today a day of mourning and will continue all the events one day later than scheduled.

I agree with Brundage’s sentiment that we should never bend to terror. Yet we must remind a new generation of athletes and viewers and athletes to be that such an event cannot be taken for granted. Not only must the world be in a state or relative peace to even hold a games, the Olympics can only take place under an unprecedented degree of protection: 12,000 police officers, 12,200 soldiers, and 7,ooo contracted security workers on site, plus 5,500 additional soldiers on off-site Olympic security, all at a cost of $870 million. The youth of today need to understand why this is all necessary. The answer to that question does not begin with 9/11 or the London Subway Bombings. It begins with the deaths of 11 Israeli Olympians.

I want these men remembered, but I want them remembered in a way that will send every athlete, official, and spectator home thinking “I am tired of living in a world where this is all necessary, and I am going to do something positive about it.”

Sadly, we are not even having that conversation.

Please enjoy the games. We will pray for the safety and success of everyone in London.