Organisers try to quell anger over Munich tribute


LONDON (Reuters) - Olympic organisers hit back at criticism on Tuesday of how they had honoured 11 Israeli team members killed at the 1972 Munich Games, ignoring calls to hold a minute's silence for them in the opening ceremony.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge led a surprise tribute in the athletes village in London on Monday, but that low-key event failed to satisfy relatives of the victims or Israeli officials.

London Organising Committee Chairman Seb Coe told Reuters he felt that the tribute had been appropriate and played down calls for the 40th anniversary of the massacre to be marked with a higher profile commemoration.

"We marked it yesterday in the Olympic Park, in the village with the signing of the truce wall and the president's very poignant words about those Israeli athletes who lost their lives in 1972," London Organising Committee chairman Coe told Reuters in a television interview.

U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he backs an official minute of silence at the opening ceremony on Friday which will be held in front of a crowd of 60,000 in the Olympic stadium and is expected to be watched by more than a billion people on television.

Coe was present at the tribute on Monday which include a minute's silence and said it had been a fitting one.

"That was absolutely appropriate," said Coe, a double Olympic gold medallist who is the public face of the Games for many Britons.

"It was in the athletes village which is exactly where that act of barbarity took place. I think that balance yesterday was struck perfectly."

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Israeli officials were "underwhelmed" by Rogge's response. It quoted a diplomatic official who called it a ceremony that nobody knew about or paid attention to.

Ankie Spitzer, wife of murdered Olympic fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, will be in London this week to press her campaign for a moment of silence after gathering 100,000 signatures in a petition.

Palestinian guerrillas from the Black September group attacked the Israeli team and took hostages in Munich after scaling a perimeter fence with their weapons concealed in sports bags.

Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German policeman were dead after a standoff and subsequent botched rescue effort.

Jewish lobby group the Anti-Defamation League condemned the IOC for refusal to incorporate a commemoration into the opening ceremony.

"This four-decade refusal to mark one of the most infamous terrorist attacks in history, and an attack on the Olympic Games themselves, represents a continuing stubborn insensitivity and callousness to the memory of the murdered Israeli athletes," ADL National Director Abraham H.Foxman said in a statement.

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