Peres with Olympic Committee delegates 370.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
After receiving the Nobel Prize, an honorary British knighthood, the US
Presidential Medal of Freedom, a string of honorary doctorates and numerous
other awards, President Shimon Peres has added yet another to his trophy
On Wednesday a delegation of the Israel Olympic Committee, headed
by chairman Yigal Carmi, plus a group of outstanding Olympic and Paralympic
athletes that included swimmers Inbal Pezaro and Yakov Toumarkin, windsurfers
Shahar Tzuberi and Maya Davidovich and rhythmic gymnast Netta Rivkin, traveled
to Jerusalem on behalf of the International Olympic Committee to present Peres
with his latest award.
The year 2013 had been declared the year for the
advancement of the Olympic values of peace and camaraderie, and no one
symbolized those ideals more than Peres, said Carmi, underscoring that Peres had
dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace and had disseminated his desire for
peace throughout Israel and beyond.
Carmi also noted that Peres had been
a keen supporter of sport and had attended the Olympic Games in Athens and
Beijing to demonstrate his enthusiasm for the Israeli team.
Carmi did not mention the fact, Peres has also hosted receptions for the Olympic
and Paralympic teams before their departures abroad and again on their return
home. The Peres Center for Peace actively encourages Israeli and Palestinian
athletes to join forces to play against teams from other countries.
award came in the form of a bust of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of
the modern Olympics.
Peres said that he was very touched to be selected
for the award but was not sure whether he deserved it, because it was the
athletes past and present whose achievements had brought glory to Israel,
something that he considered to be remarkable for so small a
Peres emphasized the value of sport as an educational tool,
saying that sport was opposed to racism.
He instanced the inclusion of
champion track and field athlete Jesse Owens, an Afro-American who scored four
gold medals in the 1936 Munich Olympics.
Racism is one of the worst
scourges in the world, said Peres, adding that he preferred sporting contests to
“In war you have to kill the enemy. In sport you have to defeat
your rivals, but no one is harmed or killed.”
Sporting events continued
to be held in Israel even during the most difficult times, said Peres,
commenting how much he loved to see the shining eyes of children when they met a
famous athlete who could serve as a role model for them.
He was less
enamored of fans who treated the other side with violent hostility and whose
general attitude was far from sporting. But rather than condemn them, he said
that they had to be educated toward changing this negative culture.
also suggested that children be exposed to sport from the earliest possible age
so that they would grow up strong and healthy. He perceived sport as the vehicle
for a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Aware that Israeli sport and
individual athletes are woefully underfunded, Peres said that despite the lack
of funding and government support, he had witnessed some amazing feats by
Tzuberi, speaking on behalf of the athletes, said that
each time he is invited to the President’s Residence, he feels
“It gives athletes greater impetus to represent the State of
Israel, and to prove that it is not just a country of conflicts and wars but
also a country with many positive attributes,” he said.
Talking later to
reporters, Tzuberi declared that creative ways have to be found to fund athletes
to bring them to the point where they can be serious competitors in global
“It can be done,” he said.
“Someone just has to
take the initiative.”
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