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  • ATR First: Munich Massacre Memorial Opens on Anniversary


    (ATR) Forty-five years after the deadliest attack on an Olympic Games, a new memorial is set to open in the Munich Olympic Park.

    A rendering of the memorial in the Munich Park (Munich Memorial)
    The memorial will open Sept. 6 honoring the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer who died in the terrorist attack during the 1972 Olympics. The attack was carried out by a band of Palestinians.

    High level delegations from the IOC, Germany, Israel  and officials from all over the world will attend. Family from all 11 Israeli victims will also be present.

    The memorial will be located between the Munich Olympic Stadium and the site of the 1972 Olympic Village. It is the first permanent, dedicated museum commemorating the victims in Munich, joining past memorials scattered around the world.

    More importantly, the project’s impetus came from IOC President Thomas Bach, who found a partner in the Bavarian state government. Bach is the first German to lead the IOC, and used his clout to push for the memorial. The idea of a permanent project languished under earlier IOC presidents, who organized memorial services for the families of those affected ahead of previous Olympic Games.

    Dr. Steven Ungerleider, IOC consultant and International Paralympic Committee board member, told Around the Rings the location for the memorial was deliberately chosen for its greatest impact. Ungerleider, among others, was part of a group put together to oversee the project.

    The group worked together with the IOC, the Bavarian government, and the Israeli victims, coordinating everything from choosing an architect to the memorial’s location. The group even helped produce a documentary “Munich ’72 and Beyond” about the massacre.

    Ungerleider would not speculate on whether the memorial's opening would put to rest calls for a moment of silence at Olympic opening ceremonies. The IOC has consistently denied having a moment of silence, opting for a memorial service on the sideline of the Games, even amid criticism. During the London 2012 Olympics NBC broadcaster Bob Costas used his platform to offer his criticism to the IOC for omitting the tragedy from the ceremonies.

    Attendees to the Munich memorial ahead of the London 2012 Olympics (ATR)
    “It took 45 years to get this done and I think it’s a very important benchmark in the history of the Olympic movement,” Ungerleider said to ATR. “It is on a beautiful piece of property couple hundred yards east of the stadium and a few hundred yards west of the place where the athletes were murdered in the apartments.

    “When you enter, you can see to the one side the stadium and the memories of athleticism, and to the other side the horrific event of the murders, and that’s part of the juxtaposition.”

    Ungerleider said the memorial received only limited resistance from Munich residents early in the planning for the project and issues were resolved fairly quickly. Inside the memorial a museum will inform visitors about the lives of those killed in the attacks through interactive exhibits and artifacts from the day. Ungerleider says he believes the museum will help the Olympic community reconcile the events of the siege and allow visitors to learn, “move on, and come together as a community”.

    “I think [the museum is] more about the Olympic community of 205 nations collectively standing together and not allowing the embrace of terrorism of any kind,” Ungerleider added. “This was an assault on the integrity of the Olympic movement and the sanctity of the Olympic community and I think that is what the memorial will stand for.”

    A spokesperson for the Bavarian state Ministry for Education, Culture, Science and Art told ATR that opening the memorial will solidify relations between Bavaria and Israel. The spokesperson said that Miinister Ludwig Spaenle, who oversaw the project, believed that “[the world] must not forget these people” who were affected by the tragedy.

    “The place of remembrance is intended to recall the terrible events at the 1972 Olympic Games, explain it to the people today, to classify it historically and to draw conclusions from it,” the spokesperson said. “The Olympics connect athletes from all over the world. In this context, the memorial must be seen.”

    Among the leaders present will be Igal Carmi, president of the Israeli Olympic Committee, according to a spokesperson. The committee supports the memorial, but like many told ATR that “we would have preferred that this memorial would have been built much sooner”. 

    Construction of the Munich site (Munich Memorial)
    The spokesperson added that “the most important thing is to have this memorial in the Munich Olympic Village”.

    Requests for comment from the Palestine National Olympic Committee were not returned. It is unclear if any members from a Palestine delegation would attend the memorial's opening.

    Alex Gilady, the IOC member from Israel, told ATR that the memorial is continuing the efforts by Bach to never let the Olympic family forget such a tragedy. 

    “President Bach went to Rio bringing an engraved stone from Olympia to travel from Games to Games to be a light tower to the young athletes of the world to remember and respect,” Gilady said. “This is a great homage that Munich and the IOC [are paying].”

    Still, Gilady, who attended the Munich Olympics as a deputy team leader for Israeli television, says that the ramifications of that night must never be minimized or forgotten.

    “With this attack and murder in the Olympic Village, all codes were broken,” Gilady added. “Whatever will be done is never enough to clear the blood stains from the Olympic flag.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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