‘The darkest day in Olympic history’: Half a century later, the Munich massacre still casts a long shadow

September 5, 2022

Column

This month, as Canadians mark the 50th anniversary of one of the most memorable sporting events in our history — the legendary Summit Series hockey showdown between Team Canada and the Soviet Union — many Jews in Canada are also commemorating another major sports-related event dating back a half-century.

On Sept. 5, 1972, in what became the darkest day in Olympic history, Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes and coaches hostage at the Summer Games in Munich, killing 11 of them and a German police officer. Since then, the response of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the German government and Palestinian officials has compounded the tragedy.

For decades, the IOC steadfastly refused requests from relatives of the slain Israeli Olympians to formally commemorate their loved ones at each opening ceremony. This despite the Munich massacre also constituting an attack on the core values represented by the Olympics.

Ten years ago, Canada became the first country to officially call on the IOC to hold a minute of silence at the Games in memory of the murdered Israeli athletes. Last summer, at the Tokyo Games, in a long-overdue move, the IOC finally honoured the Munich victims at the opening ceremony. Despite requests for the minute of silence to become a permanent part of the opening ceremony of every Games, the IOC has yet to show it recognizes the importance of such a gesture.

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