Renew the Olympic spirit of peace in sport! Athletes from around the world and the general public watching the Olympic opening events can all help. It started to go wrong forty years ago.
In a terrorist attack at the Olympics in Munich in 1972, eleven Israeli athletes were murdered. A German policeman also lost his life. The German organizers failed to provide security safeguards for their new democracy. Unwilling to have their Olympics dubbed an authoritarian operation with allusions to Hitler’s ‘Nazi’ Olympics in Berlin in 1936, they showed scant sensitivity to real dangers posed by terrorist groups. The Arab terrorist group, Black September, linked to Fatah of the PLO of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas was responsible for taking the athletes hostage and the subsequent massacre. It was further responsible for hijacking Belgian Sabena and German Lufthansa aircraft, killing high European, Jordanian and US officials, letter bombs and other bombings of energy plants in Germany and the Netherlands, plus other outrages in Athens and New York.
At the service after the killings of the athletes, the President of the Olympics Committee failed even to mention them by name in his remarks. ‘The games must go on. We must proceed with our efforts to keep them pure and praiseworthy. We declare, therefore, this day as a day mourning and we will continue all events as planned, one day later.‘ he said. Thus was truth and the conscience of the world smothered.
In 1896 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympic ideal to build on the ancient Greek example that wars should be forbidden while the Olympic sports took place. Its present Charter says: ‘Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on … the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.‘ The IOC took no notice of the warning made that day ‘the entire fabric of international life is in danger of tearing apart and disintegrating.‘
The Olympics is supposedly about principles and PEACE between nations and peoples. The next year saw war and Europe impoverished by more terrorism including the Oil Weapon. IOC action remains unprincipled. For FORTY years the International Olympics Committee has miserably failed to address this issue at the CORE of its existence. It had another opportunity this year. The London Olympics open on 27 July.
A widow has tried for nearly forty years to have the International Olympics Committee agree to recognize this affront to the Olympic spirit by just one minute’s silence. The IOC was formally requested to reaffirm its peaceful principle by the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and US Congressmen representing the widows of slain athletes. They asked the IOC President Jacques Rogge and the Committee to hold one minute’s silence at the opening of the Olympics in memory of those slain athletes. They said it should act as a reminder about the purpose of the Olympics.
The IOC REFUSED.
Mr Ayalon retorted: ‘Unfortunately, this response is unacceptable as it rejects the central principles of global fraternity on which the Olympic ideal is supposed to rest.‘ In a statement Ayalon said: ‘The terrorist murders of the Israeli athletes were not just an attack on people because of their nationality and religion; it was an attack on the Olympic Games and the international community. Thus it is necessary for the Olympic Games as a whole to commemorate this event in the open rather than only in a side event.‘
On 8 June 2012 the US House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed Resolution 663 urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to institute a minute’s silence at every future Olympics Opening Ceremony. The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee asked for the IOC to think again.
Mrs Ankie Spitzer, widow of slain fencing master and team coach Andre Spitzer, started an online petition. It now has more than 72,000 signatures. ‘One minute of silence will clearly say to the world that what happened in 1972 can never happen again,‘ Mrs Spitzer says in the petition. ‘Please do not let history repeat itself.‘
But where is Europe? Where is Germany in this? Where is the Olympics organizer, Great Britain? What is the attitude of the European Institutions? Why are they SILENT?
During World War Two, six million of Europe’s nine million Jews were exterminated by a Nazi regime that had overthrown democracy. Robert Schuman and the founding fathers of Europe said ‘NEVER AGAIN!’ They created the Council of Europe. This defined the New Europe. Membership was only allowed to nations and peoples who respected the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Statutes of the Council of Europe where signed in London in May 1949. Only nations that are members of the Council of Europe can become members of the European Community or the European Union.
The aim of the Council of Europe, originally to be called the European Union, was according to their Statutes the ‘safeguarding and realizing the ideals and principles which are their common heritage‘ recognizing the ‘rule of law and that every person placed under its jurisdiction should enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms.‘ This step, said Schuman, ‘created the foundations of a spiritual and political cooperation, from which the European spirit will be born, the principle of a vast and enduring supranational union.‘
His colleague Pierre-Henri Teitgen told the Council of Europe that recognition of the principles was necessary because:
‘An honest man does not become a gangster in 24 hours. Infection takes time. In thought and in conscience, he has to let himself be drawn into temptation. He gets used to the fault before he commits it. He descends the stairwell step by step. One day, he finds evil has beaten him and he has lost all scruples. … Evil progresses in an underhand way, with a minority operating to seize what amounts to the levers of power. One by one, freedoms are suppressed, in one sphere then another. Public opinion is smothered, the worldwide conscience is dulled and the national conscience asphyxiated. … Intervention is needed before it becomes too late.‘
Today the EU has its own diplomatic service, called the European External Action Service. It should act based on European values, supranational values, like Human Rights and the respect of law.
Where is the External Action Service? What on earth is it doing if it has not made clear it should act Europe’s fundamental values and that all the EU rejects terrorism? Why has Europe not put all its diplomatic weight behind supporting the call of the widows and the other government leaders?
The leaders and the EU have a short time to act. If they do not act formally the people of Europe and around the world can. All who deplore the IOC’s irresponsibility and the slide to lawlessness can act independently and collectively.
The Israeli government together with support of all sympathetic governments, organizations and friends should set a TIME during or at the end of the opening ceremony. At this moment all who wish can observe a minute’s silence can do so, regardless of what the IOC has decided. Many athletes who deplore sectarian killing of athletes can show the lead. At the Olympics Opening ceremonies all athletes are free to follow this recommendation and shame the IOC. The US presidential candidates should be asked if they support this ‘INFORMAL’ minute’s silence. So should all Europe’s leaders.
The programme for the opening cermonies on 27 July has been announced. It provides an ideal opportunity to add a minute’s silence in a natural way.
Part of the theme will be William Blake’s poem ‘Jerusalem’ — with the music by Hubert Parry which many consider to be a sort of English anthem. It is sung at the Last Night of the Proms and many other occasions, including sporting events.
Many people will sing the words. The last stanza is:
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Those who support the Olympic ideal that the Games should be free of wars, killings and ideological battle should re-affirm it. They can do so by publicizing their intention to remain standing after the singing for an extra minute in silence. This should act as a renewed remembrance that the Olympics is supposed to be about peace between people and nations. Nations should denounce terrorism and killing at a world sport event.
What is required is for all friends of peace to make their intentions known. Both in the stadium and outside the stadium. Wherever they can, let all people around the world remain silent for one minute after this anthem.David Heilbron Price
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