The head of the International Olympic Committee apologized Wednesday for the organization’s longtime failure to commemorate 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Thomas Bach spoke at a ceremony in Tel Aviv marking the 50th anniversary of the deadly attack on the Munich Olympics, two weeks after Germany’s president apologized at a memorial ceremony in Germany for his country’s failures before, during, and after the attack. On Sept. 5, 1972, the Palestinian group Black September attacked the Israeli Olympic delegation at the Munich Olympic Games, killing 11 Israelis and a police officer. Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the athletes were “brutally murdered in cold blood by a Palestinian terrorist organization just for being Jews, just because they were Israelis.”
“This was the moment that the Olympic torch was snuffed out, and the five-ringed flag was stained with blood,” he said. Bach said the attack in Munich was one of “the darkest days in Olympic history” and an assault on the Olympic Games and its values. “Everything that the Olympic Games stand for was shattered 50 years ago with the horrific attack on the Israeli Olympic team.” He apologized for the many years it took the International Olympic Committee to commemorate the Israeli victims “in a dignified way.”
A moment of silence was held at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games last year — the first time the Olympic Games’ organizers marked the killing of the Israeli athletes in nearly half a century. “For this pain, and for this anguish, that we caused, I am truly sorry,” Bach said.
Last month the German government reached an agreement to provide the families of the Munich victims a total of 28 million euros (or $27.6 million) in compensation after the families had threatened to boycott this year’s memorial ceremony.