A committee of experts will investigate why Israeli athletes did not win any
medals at the London Olympics, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat
announced on Wednesday.
It was a very Israeli thing to do. Every time
Israel experiences what is deemed a national failure, on the battlefield or
elsewhere, a panel is established to probe the shortcomings in an attempt to
rectify them in the future.
More often than not, the issue is then put
aside until the committee presents its findings, after which there is a brief
brouhaha, and it is forgotten again.
Usually, there is a need to point
fingers. In this case, calls have already been made in the media to dismiss the
chairman of the Israel Olympic Committee, Zvi Varshaviak
Let us not play
the blame game but rather put things in perspective. The Olympic Games are an
international sports competition, nothing more, and if Israeli athletes did not
win a medal this time, it is not a national disaster.
Some of our
competitors did exceptionally well, coming very close to medals, and they should
be a source of national pride, not shame.
Windsurfer Lee Korzits
example, was in second place until the final race in the women’s sailing
competition, and ended up in sixth place due to a combination of bad luck and
tricky winds – hardly an embarrassment.
She was too hard on herself. “I
didn’t win a medal, and that’s a failure,” a tearful Korzits told
Similarly, gymnast Alex Shatilov
fought back the tears despite
his impressive performance to come in sixth in the floor exercise.
Israelis cried with former bronze medalist and judoka champ Arik Ze’evi
he was knocked out in just 43 seconds – and he even received a phone call
cheer him up from President Shimon Peres.
“Arik, don’t let your spirits
sag,” Peres consoled Ze’evi.
“We’re all proud of you. Don’t give up. Stay
strong!” These words were an inspiration from our president, who is 89 this
month. Despite a series of defeats during his long political career, Peres never
gave up, and is today one of the most revered leaders in Israel’s
There is no doubt that much can be done to improve Israel’s
sporting culture, and from an early age, children ought to be encouraged to
participate in athletic activities.
Particular emphasis should be placed
on the Israel Olympic Committee’s Elite Sport Department, headed by Gili Lustig,
which trains gifted athletes.
We should also learn the lessons of success
from other countries such as the US and China, which produce the world’s top
athletes and win the most medals.
But we have only 8 million people, and
in any case, medals aren’t everything. Israel has won seven medals since it
began participating in the Olympic Games in 1952, with its only gold medal
coming from Gal Fridman
in the sailing competition in Athens 2004.
fared much better at the Paralympic Games, winning 113 gold medals since 1960,
and in other sporting events, such as the Euroleague basketball
Off the playing fields in London, Israel failed to persuade
the IOC to hold a minute’s silence
for the 11 Israeli sportsmen murdered by
Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Games 40 years ago.
But the issue
received extensive media attention, and memorial ceremonies were held in several
locations, most notably at the Guildhall in London on Monday..
One of the
highlights of the London Olympics was the dazzling display by Jewish American
gymnast Aly Raisman
The 18-year-old not only won the gold in the floor
exercise to the tune of Hava Nagila, but made a point of mentioning the Munich
“Having that floor music wasn’t intentional,” she said, according to
the New York Post. “But the fact that it was on the 40th anniversary was
special.... If there had been a moment’s silence, I would have supported it and
Raisman personifies the true Olympic spirit – a
combination of an outstanding athlete and a caring human being who realizes
there is more to life – and sport – than winning medals.
The concept was
nicely described by a former Jewish American gymnastics champion, Dan Millman,
who wrote: “The journey is what brings us happiness, not the
It is the love of engaging in sport and the ethos of
sportsmanship, rather than the race for medals and winning at all costs, that
must be inculcated into Israeli culture. And that includes learning to win – and
lose – with grace.