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Family Members Say Slain Israeli Olympians Should Be Remembered

July 22, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The relatives of 11 Israeli athletes slain at the Munich Olympics in 1972 said Monday the International Olympic Committee is playing politics with a request to honor the memory of their loved ones.

The group had requested a moment of silence at Friday night’s opening ceremony in Atlanta to honor the Israelis killed at the 1972 games. They also wanted the athletes’ 14 children, who are attending their first Olympics as a group, to be received as a delegation.

Both requests were denied.

IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch told them ``the Olympics are for the living, not for the dead,″ said Ankie Spitzer-Rechess, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer-Rechess. ``We know that. But they returned in a coffin, and you can’t get around that.″

Mrs. Spitzer-Rechess, appearing with the others at a news conference, said Samaranch ``explained to us that he was afraid the Arab delegations would walk out. I said he didn’t give a lot of credit to the Arab delegations.″

Guri Weinberg, 23, son of wresting coach Moshe Weinberg, said he realized as the Palestinian delegation marched into the Olympic Stadium Friday night that ``they are athletes, not politicians.″

``Eleven people died because some didn’t distinguish between politics and athletics,″ he said.

He said he thinks the IOC refused to honor the Israeli athletes because the committee knows it is responsible for their deaths.

``I just think they don’t want to recognize that these 11 athletes were under the jurisdiction of the IOC, the protection of the IOC, and they messed up,″ Weinberg said. ``Security in Munich was not good.″

Last week, the IOC said it would not include a moment of silence or any other formal mention of the Munich attack in the opening ceremony.

``The IOC will not forget what happened in Munich. The IOC fully shares the feeling of the Israeli National Olympic Committee,″ said Francois Carrard, the IOC director general. ``But the IOC has a policy not to organize events that commemorate dramas that are long gone.″

The family members left the Friday night ceremony stunned when Samaranch did not mention the slain Israelis in his speech.

``When he did that, it was like a knife in our hearts,″ said Shlomit Romano, 24, daughter of slain weightlifting coach Yosef Romano.

``Nobody remembers. We are without fathers and nobody remembers,″ she said, dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief, then apologizing, ``Sorry.″

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