Munich Massacre Survivor Remembers
2012 London Summer Olympics
Shulamit Nir-Toor remains haunted by that day, almost 40 years ago, at the Munich Olympics. Nir-Toor was one of just two women athletes who represented Israel. She was a swimmer, just shy of her 20th birthday. It was the second week of the games.
At 4:30 a.m., eight Palestinian terrorists killed two Israeli athletes and captured nine others, all men. They demanded the release of 234 Palestinian and non-Arabs jailed in Israel, along with two German radicals.
"We were sitting in the building and watching the TV showing the terrorists negotiating with the German police," Nir-Toor told The Media Line at the Olympic Experience in Tel Aviv - an interactive exhibit showcasing Israel's Olympians. "We knew there were two of our athletes killed and nine were still alive. I'm optimistic, so I thought maybe the German government would let one of the best units in the Israeli army come to release our athletes."
Israel refused to negotiate with the terrorists. A German operation to release the Israeli hostages failed, and all nine were killed. The Mossad, Israel's famed international intelligence service, later tracked down the kidnappers who had survived and killed them.
"You go back with your friends in coffins and the games carry on," she said. "For years I had bad dreams."
Today, at 60, Nir-Toor is the director of the department of women's sports at Israel's Ministry of Sport. She was visiting the Olympic Experience with Leszek Sibilski, a professor of the sociology of sports at Washington's Catholic University. Sibilski spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to observe a moment of silence during the opening ceremony in London in memory of the athletes.
Sibilski and his students partnered with Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer, one of the athletes killed in Munich. Eventually, seven governments, (the United States, Iran, Germany, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Israel) supported the initiative.
The International Olympic Committee (the IOC) rejected the proposal, although the Israeli Embassy will be holding a memorial service in London on August 6.
"Maybe we lost the battle but we won the war because we were able to educate millions of people," Sibilski told The Media Line. Along with a group of students, he is in Israel at the invitation of Nir-Toor, of Israel's Ministry of Sport. They visited the graves of the athletes in Tel Aviv and then went on to the Olympic Experience.
The Olympic Experience is a high-tech attraction in Tel Aviv that opened three years ago. This year, they expect more than 50,000 visitors and they're booked solid for the next few months.
The experience involves visiting five different halls for presentations in 4-D about the history of the Olympics and highlighting the six Israeli athletes who have won Olympic medals. One of them, Gal Fridman, won two medals in sailing - a bronze in 1996, and Israel's only gold medal in 2004.
There is also a moving commemoration of the killing of the Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972, narrated by the only other female athlete at the Munich games, Esther Shahamov. She describes the events of the day and, as smoke blows, she reads the names of those killed.
In the last room, participants can test their strength and reflexes with updated equipment.
Visitors described their experiences as both moving and fun.
"I enjoyed learning about the Israeli athletes and hearing about their national pride," Alison Kelner, visiting from New York, told The Media Line. Her husband, Louis, was especially struck by the Munich references. "I think it was well done; it got a lot of information across in an easy to understand way. It got the message across without being too graphic," he said.
Haim Rogatka, the manager of the Olympic Experience, says the goal is of the Experience is to give the Olympic message.
"To dream, dare and succeed," Rogatka told The Media Line. "Everyone has the right to dream, and if he has the power to try he will succeed."
London, England (AFP)
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge held an unscheduled and personal minute's silence to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympic attacks which left 11 Israeli athletes dead
Rogge stages minute's silence for 1972 victims
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