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Just One Minute in Rio by Danny Ayalon

Published on: August 14, 2012

Now that the 2012 Olympic Games have ended it would be pertinent to look beyond what was a well-run event that showcased the best of international sporting prowess.

Beyond the headlines of broken athletic records or patriotic cheer, Israel has once again been singled out in an international forum. It is easy to understand why Israel is the frequent target in institutions like the United Nations where Arab and Islamic nations wield an almost insurmountable automatic majority for any issue, or the repression of any issue.

However, the Olympic Games are meant to be an event void of politics and narrow interests and instead a time to promote global unity and brotherhood through sporting achievement.

Nevertheless, once again Israel was singled out for treatment that befouls the very foundations upon which the Olympic spirit was built. Once again the simple plea that 11 Israeli athletes murdered in the Olympic Village during the Olympic Games in Munich hosted by the International Olympic Committee be remembered in front of the world during a minute of silence at the Opening Ceremony was rejected or ignored.

Only a few days before the opening ceremony we were told by IOC President Jacques Rogge that “the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident.”

However, the Opening Ceremony did include moments of silence and respect for British citizens and others around the world that died during terror attacks or wars. We can only conclude that Rogge meant that the opening ceremony was not fit to remember a tragic incident involving Israelis.

The IOC president also said a minute of silence was not part of the protocol of Opening Ceremony, yet many previous opening ceremonies held a minute’s silence. It was claimed that it was too political, yet many political causes have been remembered and utilized during opening ceremonies.

Rogge finally ran out of excuses.

Rogge lost our respect and lost his ability to legitimately represent the Olympic ideal that all are equal in the international family of nations. He was exposed as a hypocrite and as someone who was led by political interests and not the interests of the Olympic Games, whose darkest moment saw 11 Israeli athletes tortured and murdered in the Olympic Village, during the Olympic Games under the auspices and supposed protection of the IOC.

Rogge and the IOC also failed to condemn the letter sent to him by the Palestinian Olympic Committee head calling for a rejection of the minute of silence as “racist” and where the Palestinian official media still refers to those who murdered the Israeli Olympians, during what they describe as the “Munich Operation,” as “stars” whose path should be followed. Rogge apparently has little to say about the head of an official Olympic delegation who calls the memorializing of murdered athletes racist.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by an organizational leadership which enables segregation at its sporting events or official practices. During the warm-up for competition, the Lebanese Judo team in London was infuriated to discover that the Israeli judo athletes were training right next to them. The Lebanese threatened to cancel their own training session unless the organizers installed a partition between the teams, which was facilitated.

Now just imagine that a team of white Olympic athletes refused to practice next to a team of black Olympic athletes. Would this too be accepted in the same casual manner? While there may be political differences between nations, to accept a call to create a physical partition between athletes merely because of their nationality enables a type of casual racism which the IOC has enabled in its acceptance.

While the IOC claimed they were clamping down on and even punishing athletes who refuse to compete against Israelis, apparently refusing to share the same air in a gym doesn’t fall under that category.

The IOC can take one little step to rectify this situation. Now, a full four years before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the IOC can state officially and unequivocally that it will hold a minute silence during the opening ceremony for the 11 murdered Israeli athletes. Once it is be stated publicly and officially, it will be difficult to retract, and each nation which has a problem with a minute of silence for murdered athletes will have four years to come to terms with it.

Many leaders, parliaments, organizations and individuals around the world supported our call for “Just One Minute.” The campaign will not go away, we have only just begun and it will only continue to create awareness around the globe.

We have been emboldened by the impact of our campaign. For the first time, millions of people learned about the fate of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes and understood the long-standing threat posed to Israeli citizens all over the world by terrorist groups and the states that support them.

It also exposed the hypocrisy Israel faces in international fora where there appears to be one rule for the Jewish state and another for others. We hope that the IOC will cease its exclusionary policies toward Israel, and it can begin with just one minute.

Yisrael Beytenu, All rights reserved