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Israeli athletes killed in 1972 remembered

Guri Weinberg has startling blue eyes and short black hair. For a long time, he dreamed of being a soccer player, but instead has found his passion in acting. He is 23. He lives a pastel-colored house in Los Angeles.

In 1972, when he was still wearing diapers in Israel, Palestinian terrorists entered his father's dormitory during the Olympics in Munich. Moshe Weinberg, a handsome wrestling coach for the Israeli Olympic team, was the first to go.

"I was mad for a long time at my father," said Weinberg. "He was killed first because he fought them. They shot him twice in the chest."

Weinberg turned away, biting his lip. "I was 3 weeks old. My father is just stories and pictures."

Since the tragedy at the Munich Olympics, Weinberg and other family members of the 11 slain Israeli athletes have craved for some sort of commemoration for the dead. To their disappointment, the International Olympic Committee has refused to recognize the tragedy.

On the opening night ceremony of the 1996 Olympics here in Atlanta, the Israeli family members held their breath as IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch spoke eloquently about the Olympic spirit.

There was nothing about Munich.

"All I wanted was one moment," said Mimi Weinberg, the widow of the wrestling coach and Guri's mother.

But on Sunday night, the survivors of the Israeli athletes moved a little closer to their dream _ remembrance. In the garden at the Atlanta Jewish Federation, a memorial sculpture was dedicated to the Munich 11 amid moving speeches by Atlanta's Jewish leaders and silver trays of smoked salmon. Eleven Yahrzeit candles were lit in mourning.

A vice president from the IOC attended the ceremony.

In a cruel stroke of irony, the long-awaited commemoration occurred a day after a pipe bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park on Saturday, killing two and injuring 110.

The survivors of the slain Israeli athletes were brought to Atlanta by the Israeli Olympic Committee and the Israeli consulate.

"For a long time, I didn't want to do this," said Guri Weinberg. "But I've made peace with things."

On the 11th day of the Munich games, eight terrorists jumped a security fence in the Olympic Village and invaded the dormitory where Israeli athletes were housed. As the clock ticked, the Palestinian terrorists made their demands known: Release several of their comrades imprisoned in Israel or the athletes would be killed.

Israel's Prime Minister, Golda Meir, refused.

That night, while the world watched, a rescue attempt by German authorities at the Munich airport turned into a disastrous firefight. Nine of the Israeli hostages were killed, along with the five terrorists and a West German policeman.

The Israeli team pulled out of the Munich games, as well as athletes from several Arab countries who feared retaliation.

Sunday night was bittersweet, the victory of remembrance laced with the sadness of the details.

"I told Guri his father's favorite after shave was Old Spice," said Alon Howard, an Israeli wrestler with the youth team in Munich. "We used to shower after wrestling and his father liked to put the radio on."

Howard was 17 when he traveled with the Israeli team from Tel Aviv to Munich. He returned on the plane with 11 caskets.

Now a 41-year-old businessman who owns several Dunkin Donuts in Philadelphia, Howard is outraged there has been no recognition from the IOC. Not even a moment of silence.

"It's up to the IOC to remember," said Howard. "It's not up to us to fight all this."

Saturday's bombing shocked the Israeli visitors.

"My mother said, "Two times you went to the Olympics, and two times you call me with bad news,' " said Howard.

The pain of Saturday's bomb mingled with the old scars.

Stephen Selig, the president of the Atlanta Jewish Federation, told the crowd of more than 300, "We want to send out a message to the people who did this, just as Golda Meir sent out a message 24 years ago," Selig said. "To terrorists, to those who destroy the spirit of unity that the Olympics represents, we say, "No deal. No deal ever.' "

Guri and Mimi Weinberg will keep fighting for official recognition at future Olympics.

"We are going to be around every four years," said Mimi, who never re-married after her husband was killed. "You cannot close your eyes and say nothing has happened."