MKs blame gov't for Israel’s 'failure' at Olympics

‘Building a champion requires long-term investment, but that’s not in Finance Ministry’s DNA,’ says Kadima's Tirosh.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 8, 2012 02:45
1 minute read.
Lee Korzits at London Games

Lee Korzits 370 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

The government is responsible for Israel’s apparent failure to win a medal at the Summer Olympics for the first time since the 1988 Seoul Games, Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh said Tuesday after windsurfer Lee Korzits ended Israel’s last hope for a medal.

Tirosh, who chairs the Knesset’s Lobby for the Promotion of Sports in Israel, is a former director-general of the Education, Culture and Sports Ministry. She said Israel needed to invest in athletes from a young age like the Soviet Union did.

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“Our current approach doesn’t work,” Tirosh said. “In Israeli society, we like to take shortcuts, but Olympic success requires a long-term investment. The leaders of our country have not realized the importance of building up our future Olympic winners from the bottom up. Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] started investing but too little too late. The work is Sisyphean but in the end it leads to a medal.”

Tirosh said it was unacceptable that Israel’s athletes and trainers need to acquire day jobs in teaching and other professions to get by. She said they should be able to work full-time on sports.

“Unfortunately such long-term investments are not in the DNA of the Finance Ministry,” Tirosh said.

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“They need to realize that building an Olympic champion is in our national interest. Medal winners are our top ambassadors in the world.”

Kadima MK Marina Solodkin said the government missed out on a chance to develop new sportsmen among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and their children. She said Ethiopian immigrants have natural skills in running and Russian immigrants at gymnastics.

“We have talented people but we have not invested enough,” Solodkin said.

“The problem is that it has not been made a priority of the government.

If we would invest more in our athletes, I am sure we would have more medals.”

Likud MK Ofir Akunas, who heads the party’s response team, called the Kadima MKs’ charges “completely ridiculous.”

A spokesman for Education, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat said there was no financial problem at all for the Olympians and that a record amount was invested in this year’s Games, some NIS 80 million.


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