120 groups join in call for Olympic moment of silence

DATE: August 3, 2021
CONTACT: John Pope, 717-386-9270, [email protected]
Open Letter: Link

August 3, 2021: 120 groups in the U.S. and across the world, joined a call for a moment of silence during Friday’s Olympic competition. The moment would mark the 76th anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. The open letter to the International Olympic Committee follows a petition led by Tadatoshi Akiba, the former mayor of Hiroshima, calling for the same. 

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima killing 140,000 people and leaving thousands more wounded or sickened. Then on August 9th, another nuclear weapon was used on Nagasaki killing 70,000. Survivors of the atomic bombing, the hibakusha, have spent decades working to make sure that nuclear weapons are not used again. 

“We joined this effort because so much of our own work is guided by the inspiration of the hibakusha,” says Yasmeen Silva from Beyond the Bomb, which organized the US-based sign on letter. “A moment of silence at the Olympics would acknowledge not just the loss of those lives but of the incredible work – and empathy – of the survivors in looking beyond their own pain toward the goal of ending the threat of nuclear war for everyone.” 

“The message of the hibakusha must be heard and must be amplified,” says Dr. Emma Belcher, president of the Ploughshares Fund. “The threat of nuclear war is still all too real. New and more dangerous weapons are still being built.” 

The International Olympic Committee has no current plans to mark the Hiroshima anniversary. Instead there will be a section of the closing ceremony for all “grievous events in history.” Activists and survivors say this is insufficient with the games taking place in Japan. Yasuaki Yamashita, a Nagasaki hibakusha (survivor) explains. “As a young man I had the privilege to travel from Nagasaki to Mexico City in 1968 working for the Japanese press during the Olympic Games. There was a profound feeling of unification and peace enjoyed by people from all over the world to realize our common bond of humanity. For the IOC to reject the idea of spending one minute in silent prayer to honor those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki runs counter to the Olympic spirit itself.”

“Despite the IOC’s statement, we’re hopeful that athletes will recognize the significance of competing at this time and place and take their own moment of silence even if there is no official marking of the anniversary,” says Yasmeen Silva from Beyond the Bomb. 

Mayor Akiba will hold a press conference on the effort at 10 AM EDT August 4th.