Former Canadian Olympic swimmer calls for minute of silence at 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony

Former Olympic swimmer Karen James still remembers the 1972 Munich Olympics as a witness to one of the biggest massacres in sporting history. She has joined the widows of the athletes in calling for a moment of silence at the 2012 Olympic Games in London to honour the murdered.

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Former Olympic swimmer Karen James still remembers the 1972 Munich Olympics as a witness to one of the biggest massacres in sporting history. Video by Beth Hong for The Vancouver Observer.

Former Olympic swimmer Karen James still remembers the 1972 Munich Olympics, but not just because she was a 19 year old representing Canada at the world's largest sporting event. She remembers the games because she witnessed the men who went on to murder 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and officials the night they entered the athletes' village.

At dawn on Sept 5, James and three other athletes-- water polo players and swimmers -- snuck back into the athletes' village by climbing a three-metre fence. She recalled seeing some unfamiliar men, but did not think anything of it.

"I later learned these men were members of the [Palestinian Liberation Organization] faction the Black September terrorist group," she said.

James, who is Jewish, is still haunted by the memory of that night. She remembers hearing helicopters the next morning near the compound, and being ushered into a building with all the other athletes, where they could only watch the Black September members lead their victims blindfolded to their deaths. 

Karen James looks back at photographs of herself from the 1972 Munich Olympics. Photo by Beth Hong for The Vancouver Observer.

James is one of the over 100,000 people who have signed the Minute of Silence Munich 11 petition, which asks the International Olympic Committee to have a minute of silence for the murdered Israeli athletes in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. It's not a political matter, she said, but a matter of respect. While there have been tributes and minutes of silence outside of the Games, an official minute of silence in an Olympic opening ceremony hasn't happened yet.

The petition was organized by two widows of slain athletes, Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, and a Jewish community group from Rockland, New York. The New York Times reported that Rogge met with Spitzer and Romano on Wednesday, and pressure is mounting on Rogge and the IOC to accede their calls from high-profile leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama, Republican presential candidate Mitt Romney, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

James had a simple message for Rogge and the organizers of the 2012 London Olympics.

"The world deserves to see a one minute of silence at the opening ceremonies to honour the memory of those innocent athletes killed within the Olympic family -- having lived and dreamt and followed through on those Olympic ideals."

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