The second week of the 1972 Munich Olympics was meant to be a joyous week. Having just completed seven days of events, many athletes and spectators looked forward to the completion of this event and the celebration of the closing ceremony. The fifth of September 1972 would shatter the Olympic doctrine: … to build a peaceful and better world … which requires mutual understanding in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play …
On the night of 4 September 1972, Israeli athletes enjoyed a night out watching a performance of Fiddler on the Roof. That night the head of the delegation, Shmuel Lalkin, denied his 13-year-old son's request to stay at the athletes' apartment. His refusal saved his son’s life.
At 4.30 on the morning of 5 September, eight terrorists from Black September scaled the two-metre fence with the assistance of unsuspecting athletes and with duffel bags loaded with AKM rifles, Tokarev pistols and grenades. What followed would be the blackest day in Olympic history, sporting event that was meant to embrace diversity and had been shaped over the years by kinship, kindness and solidarity was ripped apart with the brutal cold-blooded murder of—I want to remember them by name—Moshe Weinberg, wrestling coach; Yossef Romano, weightlifter; Ze'ev Freedman, weightlifter; David Berger, weight lifter; Yakov Springer, weightlifting judge; Eliezer Halﬁn, wrestler; Yossef Gutfreund, wrestling referee; Kehat Shorr, shooting coach; Mark Slavin, wrestler; Andre Spitzer, fencing coach; and Amitzur Shapira, track coach. Australia as a sporting nation was shocked to its core when the Israeli athletes were murdered in 1972. I remember being outraged at the incompetence of the Olympic officials and the German police. Perhaps their reluctance to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the massacre is not simply a desire to acquiesce to the organisation of Islamic states; perhaps they do not want to remember their own incompetence. My family is originally from Germany. On this 40th anniversary of this gratuitous violence the German press is reporting that Abu Daoud, the organiser of these murders, was assisted in scoping the Olympic sites in Munich by German neo-Nazis. The reliable German news publication Der Spiegel reported on 18 June that Wolfgang Abramowski and Willi Pohl, two neo-Nazis, assisted Black September with fake passports, weapons and transport, and officials in Germany knew about that collaboration. This cooperation says much about that dead-end of Palestinian nationalism which cannot embrace any compromise or indeed any future for their own people.
The 2012 London Olympics marks the 40th anniversary of this massacre. The request for a minute's silence at the London Olympics to remember those massacred at Munich is a simple gesture which would acknowledge the fallen athletes. This request has the support, amongst others, of the Canadian parliament, US congressmen, British politicians and, to their great credit, the members for Bradfield, Kooyong and Eden-Monaro and the Australian government and opposition, which are going to have this resolution voted on tomorrow. This event was the darkest hour in the history of the Olympics, and not to remember the 11 athletes who simply came to the games to represent their country and to compete on the world stage is a desecration of all that the Olympic stands for. These slain men were fathers, uncles, brothers, friends, team mates and athletes. They came in peace and went home in coffins, killed by terrorists.
The families of the 11 murdered athletes have worked for 40 years to obtain recognition from the IOC but have been repeatedly turned down. These 11 men went to Munich to represent their country. They were happy, enthusiastic and well-liked guys who only wanted to compete at an event of nations. Their political views were not at the forefront of their minds when they trained, competed and qualified for the Olympics. This small gesture would reaffirm the Olympic values of honour, harmony and fraternity—the very values that the terrorists repudiated by their massacre. As Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Andre, said of the Israeli athletes murdered that day: The 11 murdered athletes were members of the Olympic family; we feel they should be remembered within the framework of the Olympic Games.
The fight to get these athletes remembered will continue.' It is to our great credit in the Australian parliament that we were right behind them. Members of this House, along with parliamentarians from all over the world, will continue to press the IOC to memorialise the fallen. Pheidippides, the great Ancient Greek hero who ran 240 kilometres from Marathon to Athens, with his last breath upon arriving in Greece, was able to pass on to the families of the fallen, 'We have won.' We have won simply by raising this in the Australian parliament and distinguishing Australia as a country which has a conscience, even if the rest of the international community, as represented by the IOC, does not.