Israeli Olympic team members killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian gunmen were remembered during Tokyo’s opening ceremony on Friday, the first time in nearly half a century.

The families of the 11 killed had for years been urging the International Olympic Committee to hold a minute’s silence at a Games opening ceremony, but their requests were repeatedly rejected. 

“We, the Olympic community, also remember all the Olympians and members of our community who have so sadly left us, in particular, we remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic Games,” an announcer said during the opening ceremony on Friday.

“One group still holds a strong place in all our memories and stands for all those we have lost at the games – the members of the Israeli delegation at the Olympic Games Munich 1972,” the announcer added.

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Widows Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, who lost their husbands in the attack, said, “Justice has finally been done for the husbands, fathers and sons who were murdered in Munich. We went through 49 years of struggle and never gave up. (We) can’t stop the tears from flowing. For this moment we waited.”

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The Munich massacre

In the early morning of September 5, 1972, a group of Palestinian terrorists, who were part of a group known as Black September, stormed the Olympic Village apartment of the Israeli Olympics team. They killed two of the members and took nine others hostage. In return for the release of the 9 hostages, the terrorists demanded the release of more than 230 Arab prisoners being held in Israeli jails. In an ensuing shootout at the Munich airport, all the hostages and five terrorists were killed. The Olympic competition was suspended for a day to hold memorial services for the 11 athletes killed in the massacre.