Friday, July 20, 2012

20-Jul-12: The Olympics, terror, cowardice and wisdom

The London 2012 Olympics will get underway in a week - seven days and 9 hours for anyone counting. Though terrorism and the Olympic spirit have in principle nothing whatever to do with each other, let's take a moment to review the marginal ways in which they can be said to overlap.
  • For forty years, the Olympic movement has declined repeated requests to mark the "darkest chapter in Olympic history" - the tragedy of the Munch massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes (murdered not because they were athletes but for another reason). 
  • A concerted global effort on behalf of two of the widows -  Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano - who are calling for a minute of silence at the London games, has failed ["London 2012: Silence for Munich Olympic victims rejected"].
  • It failed although the petition they initiated has gotten 100,961 signatures as of 1:00pm Friday, today.
  • It failed although the U.S. Senate, the German Bundestag, the parliament of Canada, the parliament of  Australia, some 50 members of the British parliament as well as the Israeli government and a broad swathe of community, Jewish and terror victim organizations worldwide have all said it should be done [source]
  • It failed although president Barack Obama "absolutely" supports the campaign, according to a statement from the White House yesterday.
  • Ankie Spitzer, one of the widows who has tirelessly pursued this for four decades, received what The Guardian termed "an emollient letter" from Baron Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London organising committee: "[Mrs Spitzer] describes [the Coe refusal] with characteristic vim as "bullshit"...  The families' campaign for official remembrance began ahead of the Montreal Olympiad, which followed Munich, in 1976. "We asked for a minute's silence, or some commemoration, because it was natural in our eyes," says Spitzer. 
  • She explains why. "But they told us very clearly: 'There are 21 Arab delegations that will leave if we say something about the Israeli athletes.' So I said: 'Let them leave if they can't understand what the Olympics are all about – a connection between people through sport..."
  • The rejection has been repeated at every subsequent Olympiad. "The IOC says it's not in the protocol of the opening ceremony to have a commemoration. Well, my husband coming home in a coffin was not in the protocol either."
  • You might be interested in an analytical article that explains how "the IOC's history makes clear that the organisation cannot be expected to take a morally acceptable stance. So let's not be surprised that it won't hold a minute's silence for eleven murdered athletes". Its depressing conclusion: "The International Olympic Committee's appeasement of terror and unwillingness to take a stand against political bullying is by now a long-established tradition."
  • The British government has formally declared the terrorism threat level for the London Games as “severe”. Interpretation: an attack is “highly likely” [source]. Did you know?
  • Despite this, the official security contractor for the London Olympics, a huge global business called G4S plc, has confessed - in the last few days, that it will be unable to deliver the 10,400 guards it is contractually obliged to provide in order to secure the Games. As recently as a month ago, G4S management told the authorities in London [source] that they "would be able to resolve its problems supplying Olympic guards". 
  • The British Home Secretary says today that 17,000 servicemen and women are already involved in Games security: "The Government needs to be sure we can be ready for any contingencies." [source]
  • Yesterday (Thursday) the Olympic Games Secretary Jeremy Hunt said even that will not be enough. The UK has now put an extra 1,200 troops on standby “in the unlikely situation that G4S’s performance deteriorates from where it is today” [source].
But wait. There's more.
  • A labor dispute involving 400 British rail workers has now erupted, with strikes likely to disrupt train services in central England between August 6th and 8th [source].
  • A second labor dispute: UK border guards at London’s Heathrow Airport are planning to start their own strike on Thursday July 26, the day before the Games get started [source].
It would be unacceptably cheap to ask "what could possibly go wrong?" so we will refrain.

No comments: