New immigrant Olympic athletes to receive funds increase

The 2008 Israeli Olympic Team will be represented by 39 athletes, 15 of whom are new immigrants.

beijing olympics 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
beijing olympics 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
New immigrant athletes, who make up nearly half of Israel's Olympic team traveling to Beijing this summer, will receive double the size of the stipend allotted in previous years, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption said Thursday. The 2008 Israeli Olympic Team will be represented by 39 athletes, 15 of whom are new immigrants. In addition, 10 of 22 coaches on the Olympic team are immigrants as well as the psychologist and doctor. The immigrant athletes mainly originate from the former Soviet Union, but also hail from Ethiopia and the United States. To ease the transition of moving for the immigrant competitors, the government has doubled the monthly stipend for athletes to NIS 5,000. "It's not so easy to be a new immigrant and participate in an Olympic sport," Claudia Katz, manager of the ministry's employment department, said Thursday. "We give them a stipend for their first steps in Israel, so they can make all the effort to be good in their sport and not have to worry about what they are going to eat in the morning." "Living conditions [for the immigrants] are very different," said Vladimir Issurim, a specialist in sports science for the Olympic team who immigrated to Israel 10 years ago. "Some of the young people live in not so great conditions and are only beginning their way." Pole vaulter Alex Averbukh, who emigrated from Russia in 1999, said the support for the athletes is very helpful. "My life is much better because the Olympic team has sponsors who give money to the athletes," he said. It is not unusual for the Israeli Olympic team to include a large number of immigrants, Katz said, noting that the immigrant component of the Israeli team competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens was 52 percent. A four-part television campaign, starting July 5 and centering on the immigrant Olympians, will run on Israeli TV. Each quarter of the campaign will focus on an individual and his or her respective sport, said Meital Noy, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. The purpose of the television campaign is to "strengthen and improve" the connection between the new immigrants and the veteran immigrants, Noy said, adding that the campaign will help integrate immigrants into Israeli society. The campaign is built on research conducted by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption last year about stereotypes of immigrants and the view that they are separate from the rest of Israeli society. The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption hosted a celebration on Thursday in Netanya to honor the new immigrants on the Olympic team.