NEW YORK, N.Y. – NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas says he plans his own on-air commemoration this week of Israelis killed in Munich 40 years ago despite the refusal of Olympic authorities to do so during Friday’s opening ceremony for the London Game.
A bid to honour the athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian gunmen during the 1972 games with a moment of silence has gained momentum recently, even drawing President Barack Obama’s support.
Costas, who called the International Olympic Committee’s decision baffling, told the Hollywood Reporter that he intends to note that denial on Friday when Israeli athletes enter the Olympic Stadium. Costas has been the lead host of NBC’s Olympics coverage for 20 years.
“Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive,” Costas said. “Here’s a minute of silence right now.”
Through a spokesman, Costas denied a request by The Associated Press to speak further about his plans. His comments to the Hollywood Reporter were made more than a month ago and published late last week, and NBC noted that things can change in the interim.
“Our production plans for Opening Ceremony are still being finalized and Bob is part of that planning,” said NBC Sports Group spokesman Adam Freifeld.
IOC President Jacques Rogge offered a moment of silence Monday to the 11 Israelis during an Olympic Village ceremony promoting a United Nations initiative calling on nations to halt armed conflict during the games. It drew about 100 people.
Two days earlier, Rogge said that the opening ceremony “is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident.” The opening ceremony is televised worldwide; in the U.S. alone NBC’s telecast of the 2008 Games in Beijing averaged 34.2 million viewers.
Abraham Foxman, national direction of the Anti-Defamation League, said support from Costas would be welcome. Foxman’s organization, which promotes Jewish causes, has backed an effort to bring notice to the Munich victims at opening ceremonies for years.
“I think he’s right, and I think it will make a difference because of who he is,” Foxman said. “It’s sad that one has to characterize it as courageous. It’s such a common-sense thing to do.”
Criticizing the IOC could be a delicate issue for NBC. In addition to choosing where future Olympic competitions will be held, Rogge’s organization also awards exclusive rights to televise the events to networks in different countries. The IOC has awarded NBC those rights in the U.S. through the 2020 Games.
David Bauder can be reached at dbauder”at”ap.org or on Twitter (at)dbauder