Monument Underway For Slain 1972 Israeli Olympians

Dec 9, 2015
Originally published on December 9, 2015 2:21 pm

The spectacular global terrorism that's been so prominent lately can best be dated from 1972, when 11 Israeli Olympians were murdered at the Munich Games. That seminal atrocity has taken on even more horror, too, now that we've learned that some of the victims suffered mutilation and torture before they died.

We may take some solace, though, that, after 43 years, the construction of a monument to the Israelis has finally begun and will be unveiled next October. Pointedly and poignantly, it stands barely more than a hundred yards from where the Israelis were first taken hostage.

Of course, we have to ask again: Why in the world did it take more than four decades for the International Olympic Committee to build a memorial?

Click the audio to hear Frank Deford's full commentary.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Commentator Frank Deford has been thinking about the victim of a terrorist attack, one that was carried out decades ago.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: The spectacular modern global terrorism that's been so prominent lately can best be dated from 1972 - in sports - when 11 Israeli Olympians were murdered at the Munich games. We may take some solace, though, that after 43 years, the construction of a monument to the Israelis has finally begun, to be unveiled next October. Pointedly and poignantly, it stands barely more than a hundred yards from where the Israelis were first taken hostage. Of course, we have to ask again - why in the world did it take more than four decades for the International Olympic Committee to build a memorial? Part of the problem has been the IOC leadership. Avery Brundage was president at the time of the massacre, a pompous anti-Semite. His successor was the amiable but ineffectual Lord Killanin, Then Juan Antonio Samaranch, a heartless self-promoter. He was followed by Jacques Rogge, a cipher of a president who would whine, I don't think the time is right whenever the memorial proposal was approached. What time would be right, a hundred years on, a millennium? It's revealing that the new IOC chief, Thomas Bach, who so quickly advanced the memorial project, is a German, he of the nation where the men were killed. And, too, Bach had been a fencer who had known one of the Israelis as a fellow Olympian. Andre Spitzer was a fencing coach. And it is his widow, Ankie, who, more than anyone else, would not let the idea of a memorial fade. What a force she and another widow, Ilana Romano have been. In fact, I shall never forget Ankie berating me when I repeated the widespread American thought that the games should have been canceled after the murders. Well, she snapped at me, isn't that just what the monsters would have wanted? I was reminded of that when I heard that the latest carnage in France would not stop the Parisians from going out to cafes. So thanks to the indefatigable two widows and an old athletic rival, the memorial is finally going up, there in proximity to the very place of horror. So, too, will a documentary film, "Munich: 1972 And Beyond," be released. The time, it seems, is right for us to remember and mourn anew, even as that evil that began in the sport still bloodies so many other aspects of our culture, time and again.

GREENE: Commentator Frank Deford joins us most Wednesdays on the program. That program is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.