The masked man on the balcony still haunts me to this day.

I don’t know whether these are real memories, real time wounds, slashed in my then seven-year-old brain. Or are they a cumulation of painful reminders echoed through news clips, books, and digital articles I have been subjected to for years.

When I press my eyelids closed to forget, they are met with the stinging of my salted tears. The memory of being so frightened that somehow that masked man on the TV set was going to come hunting for this scared seven-year-old boy, thousands of miles away. The memory of asking my parents if this marked the return of a Holocaust-like situation.

Imagine my fear compared to the kidnapped coaches and athletes from Israel. Imagine their emotions grappling with being Olympians safe in their athletes’ villages one moment, to hostages bound hand and foot amongst their dying countryman the next. Imagine their cries for help as they were led to helicopters, assumedly headed to a safe exchange point, for they knew there was no coming home for them.

It was just forty years ago this week that the Black September faction kidnapped, tortured, and killed eleven Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. In all likelihood, their deaths could have been prevented if Games organizers had provided the level of security that was appropriate given received threats prior to the Games and the obvious implications for the Jewish people of Munich. At least some of their deaths could have been prevented if a horribly planned, and bizarrely executed, airport ambush had been thought through. How many of us remember that a half dozen German police, planted on the escape jet as airline staff, refused to participate in the rescue at the last minute.

Remarkably, the IOC almost refused to halt the Games until the crisis was resolved. Remarkably, the IOC President at the time, Avery Brundage, made little reference to the murdered athletes during his alleged memorial speech during a service at the Olympic stadium on September 6th. Remarkably, forty years later, the IOC refuses to pay tribute to the murdered athletes during the Summer Games, bowing to the political protests of countries in conflict with Israel.

In fact, IOC President Jacques Rogge actually told one of the victim’s widows, during a meeting to discuss the requested memorial, that his “hands were tied.” To which she grimly quipped, “so were my husband’s…and his feet.”

The eleven people listed below were not politicians. They were not warriors. They were not terrorists. They were Olympians. They are Olympians.
Because today, the masked man on the balcony haunts us all.They weren’t just haunted by the man on the balcony. They were hunted by him and his co-conspirators. Forty years later I ask you to read these names and provide them with the remembrance they deserve, yet are so unjustly denied by the Olympic Movement.

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