Peres honored by Olympic C’ttee

Delegation, including Shahar Tzuberi, award president with bust of founder of modern Olympics.

Peres with Olympic Committee delegates 370 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
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 case.
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.
Although 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.
The 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 country.
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 wars.
“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.
He 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 Israeli athletes.
Tzuberi, speaking on behalf of the athletes, said that each time he is invited to the President’s Residence, he feels honored.
“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 sporting events.
“It can be done,” he said.
“Someone just has to take the initiative.”