Andrew Dismore asks Mayor Johnson to support minutes silence at the games in memory of the Munich Massacre. [Full Transcript]

During the Mayors Question Time on 23rd May, Andrew Dismore AM asks Mayor Boris Johnson to support the call for a minutes silence in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, as requested by families of those murdered. A petition started by the wife of murdered athlete Andrei Spitzer has collected almost 70,000 signatures. To sign click here.


The full minutes from this meeting can be found here. 

Andrew Dismore (AM): Will you support the call for a 40th anniversary memorial event to the Israeli athletes and coaching staff killed at the Munich Olympics during the London Games?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Thank you, Andrew. As you know, there is a considerable amount of work already been done to have an event of exactly the kind that you have described and I am a keen and active supporter of that.

Andrew Dismore (AM): Well, can I say, Chair, first of all, could I remind the Assembly what this is about. 40 years ago, 10 Olympiads ago, 11 Israeli athletes and their coaches were murdered at the Munich Olympic Games and not once since then has there been a memorial service or event officially part of the scheduled events at Olympic Games. Now, I know there is talk about doing an event away from the Olympic Park but the relatives and people involved are very keen indeed and have been ever since to see an event as part of the Olympic Games themselves as part of the opening ceremony or other occasion. I understand there is general cross-party support for the idea from Sebastian Coe and I think yourself included, from the Prime Minister, from Tessa Jowell, MP on behalf of the Labour Party and many others. There was an Early Day Motion I think tabled yesterday about this. Basically, I understand that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have refused to do this. Now, I would like to know from you, Mr Mayor, why are you not standing up to the IOC and demanding a minute’s silence as part of the opening ceremony as has been requested on a number of occasions? Why have you rolled over on this? Why have you not pushed this hard with the IOC to get them to agree to do it?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All right, well, I am sorry; firstly, if there has been some misunderstanding. My commitment has been to a public event and to make sure that the horrendous massacre of 1972 is properly commemorated and it is something that I know that you and I share a strong commitment to doing. Insofar as there is a proposal for a minute’s silence, I am going to have to take that up with the relevant bodies and, if you do not mind, I will see exactly what is being proposed. I am not aware that a minute’s silence is something that normally happens at an Olympic opening ceremony.

Andrew Dismore (AM): Well, the point about it is that is has not happened. The IOC say, for some reason, to have a minute’s silence to commemorate these victims of terrorism would be a “political gesture” but surely not having a minute’s silence is, in itself, a political gesture. Refusing to do so is a political gesture and that is a previous statement by the IOC itself. Now, as I understand it, there have been calls for this at previous Olympiads. That has not happened. This is the 10th Olympiad since and is therefore an iconic occasion for this to take place. Is it not the case really that the IOC are more concerned about the Olympics as big business then about the victims of terror at their Games?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): About what?

Andrew Dismore (AM): More concerned about the Olympics as big business –

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Big business, right.

Andrew Dismore (AM): —  than we are about the victims of terror at their Games. Are they not more concerned about upsetting perhaps some members of the IOC over a rather strange view aboutIsrael then they are about trying to commemorate victims of terror?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, as I say, I think what we need to do is establish exactly what is being requested by way of a commemoration and I certainly think that it is appropriate to have a visible public commemoration of 1972 and the atrocity that took place. If, as you say, there is cross-party support from Sebastian Coe, Tessa Jowell MP and everybody involved in this matter, then that is something obviously that I will need to take up with the IOC. As I understand it, the proposal at the moment is for a very public ceremony inLondon that will have the full support of the Jewish committee for the London 2012 Games.

Andrew Dismore (AM): There is a proposal, as I understand it, for a event at the Guildhall I think it is but that is second best. That is a compromise because the IOC have refused that request, repeated on a number of occasions, for a minute’s silence at the Olympics. Now, we are paying for the Games in large part. I suspect a lot of Londoners are actually getting fed up with the IOC’s generally highhanded attitude across a range of issues, this being another one, so what are you going to do? Do you support the call for a minute’s silence at the opening ceremony or during the Games or not? It is a simple question.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, I think, on the issue of a minute’s silence, I will reflect on it. I think that there may be people who say that one might think of having a minute’s silence, for instance, for the victims of 7/7 which took place the day after the Olympic Games were secured for London. There will be, I can imagine, points being made of that nature, Andrew, so let us, without perhaps putting the cart before the horse, look at what the proposal is and let us establish the nature of the IOC’s difficulties and see where we are at.

Andrew Dismore (AM): Well, I can tell you the proposal is for a minute’s silence. The IOC have refused because they say it is a political gesture and I think it is about time –

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, you are saying this. I have no evidence to support that view.

Andrew Dismore (AM): It has been in all the newspapers. It has been in all the Jewish press and I understand you have a press officer who will monitor these sorts of things. Is it not about time we saw a bit of backbone from you and that you stood up to these unelected and accountable faceless global business bureaucrats that run the IOC?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, as I say, I think there may very well be an argument going on with the IOC between some people proposing a minute’s silence. Let us try, without descending into recrimination or rancour, and see what strength of arguments are on either side. I can imagine that there will be people who say that the Olympic ceremonies do not have a minute’s silence just because there are so many claims for events to be commemorated. As it happens, I can see the point that you make that the 1972 anniversary falls now and we are in an Olympic year. I can see the logic of what you are saying but with great respect to the assertions you have made about the strength of support for the minute’s silence, would you forgive me if I established exactly what people are wanting to do and exactly why it may be that the IOC are rejecting it, if indeed they are rejecting it in the way that you suggest they are?

Andrew Dismore (AM): Yes, I think that the argument would be that this was a disaster and an atrocity which occurred within their remit rather than something that occurred outside or at a similar time. That is why it is uniquely something that they need to participate in.