Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports, Munich, London and Pieces of Cake

A sports story which has touched me deeply and continues to fester is the issue of the moment of silence at the Olympic Games.

As most of the world is aware, in 1972, eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were killed after being attacked by Palestinian terrorists in the Olympic Village during the Summer Olympics in Munich. As this was the forty year anniversary of the tragedy, a movement began to convince the International Olympic Committee to hold a moment of silence during the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. This movement was supported by politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany. However, the President of the IOC, Frenchman Jacques Rogge, refused to allow the moment of silence as it was either "an inappropriate time" and he had planned an alternative to remember the Israelis. Despite numerous high profile requests, including a petition with 100,000 signatures, calls from some of the widows of Munich and a request by President Obama, Rogge was unwilling to yield.

I was unaware of the history of the request for a moment of silence, but apparently there have been numerous requests which have fallen on deaf ears. As reported by the AP, at Montreal (1976) the families were told no because the Arabs would leave. At Barcelona (1992) they were told that the IOC was unwilling to bring politics to the games. At Atlanta (1996), the reason was protocol. At Athens (2004), organizers said it was not the appropriate time.

In defiance of the IOC, Bob Costas of NBC held his own moment of silence during the Opening Ceremonies. Even more impressive was the fact that he announced that he was going to do it and NBC did not convince him to refrain from doing so.

Although the IOC was unwilling to change its position on the moment of silence, the body which governs the judo competition at the Olympics had no issue with changing their stripes when they were pressured by the Arab bloc.

For the first time, Saudi Arabia sent female athletes to the Olympic games, including Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, a woman who competes in the 172 pound Judo weight class. When she first announced that she would only compete if she was allowed to wear a hijab, the ruling was that she could not wear it because it was dangerous. However at the very beginning of the Games, the ruling was reversed and she was permitted to wear the hijab.

Rogge's refusal to allow the moment of silence because it was an "inappropriate time" simply cannot be reconciled with the permission for the wearing of the hijab, notwithstanding it being dangerous. While Rogge can claim that he is observing tradition, in reality he is using it as a shield to protect the IOC from doing something unpopular - showing compassion for Jews who were killed for being Jewish.

Rogge is hardly the first person to have ulterior motives for his action or inaction, but it reminded me of a vort I heard in a Rabbi Mansour shiur about Og, the King of Bashaan. The Torah recounts in Sefer Bereishis that Palit came and told Avraham that Lot had been taken captive. Avraham went to war and saved Lot from death. Later in Sefer Devarim, Moshe is concerned about going to war with Og because Moshe is aware that Og had zechus (merit) because he informed Avraham of the Lot kidnapping.

R' Mansour asked - why did Og's name change from Palit to Og? He answered (I don't recall his source) that Og told Avraham about Lot because Og was interested in Sarah and hoped that Avraham would be killed in battle. He is then called Og because he is like Oogah - cake. A cake is not bread and those who work dough cakes in order to make them into matza must constantly remind themselves that they are making them for the purpose of matza. If done for the wrong reason, the matza will not be proper for the Seder. Much like Og who acted like he was doing things for a legitimate reason, Rogge has pretended like he was observing tradition, but it is fairly obvious that he refused the moment of silence for nefarious reasons.

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