Report on London Games highlights positives

Sinai Says: Report presented to the OCI board showed that 22 of 37 Israeli athletes met goals set out for them ahead of Games.

The Israeli delegation at the 2012 London Olympics 370 (R) (photo credit: Murad Sezer / Reuters)
The Israeli delegation at the 2012 London Olympics 370 (R)
(photo credit: Murad Sezer / Reuters)
With the Israeli delegation returning home empty handed from the Olympics for the first time in 20 years, it is hardly surprising that the Olympic Committee of Israel did its best to bury Monday’s report into the team’s performance in the London 2012 Games.
No fancy press conference (usually so beloved by the OCI) was called and only general details were released to the public, as if the report includes information which could pose a threat to Israel’s national security.
Israel failed to win a medal at the Olympics for the first time since Yael Arad took the country’s first at the 1992 Barcelona Games, with windsurfer Lee Korzits and gymnast Alex Shatilov recording the delegation’s best results, finishing in sixth place.
Since the end of the Olympics, the director of Israel’s Elite Sport Department, Gili Lustig, and his staff held countless meetings with coaches and the heads of the different associations, analyzing the showing of each of the 37 Israeli athletes sent to London.
The report he presented to the OCI board on Monday showed that 22 of the 37 Israeli representatives met the goals set out for them ahead of the Games. However, Lustig, who has overseen Israel’s professional preparations for the past five Olympics, understands that the failure to win a medal is all that is going to be remembered from the past summer.
“I have said at every chance that I take responsibility for the delegation’s performance, but I also analyzed the results and we had 12 top-10 finishes,” Lustig told me this week. “But we didn’t achieve our main goal of winning a medal which is certainly a disappointment.
On the other hand, as far as finals and top-10 finishes go we did better than in the Beijing Games.”
Lustig rejected any suggestion that the report should have been prepared by an external body and claimed that Israeli sports’ biggest problem is its lack of depth.
“We are working with a vertical pyramid. We don’t have a wide enough base of athletes,” he said.
“We rely on a very limited number of sportsmen and sportswomen, so as soon as they are gone or not in shape we have no depth. This is an ongoing problem. It is not as if we have won 800 medals down the years. We have always relied on a small number of athletes and are left to try and work magic with them.”
Perhaps the most important part of the Elite Sport Department’s report is its recommendations ahead of Rio 2016.
“I think we must continue with favoring certain sports,” Lustig said.
“It was proven in the past four-year Olympic cycle that nurturing and prioritizing particular sports results in success. Of the 31 medals we won in World and European Championships in this cycle, 29 came from these sports. Seven of the eight finals we reached in London were also in these sports, even with the lack of success in sailing and judo.”
Despite the dejecting displays by almost all the sailors and judokas in London, Lustig believes they should still receive increased financial backing.
“These are sports that have proven themselves down the years and we have a relative advantage in them,” he explained. “Continuity is crucial. We need to continue to support them. Likewise, we need to keep backing the athletics jumps project. We have young talented jumpers who unfortunately suffered from injuries. Swimming and gymnastics, which both did very well in London, also remain among our select sports.”
Unlike in previous years, the Elite Sport Department has also suggested that certain events in some sports receive extra attention rather than just a sport in general.
“I’m in favor of focusing on particular events in which we have a relative advantage like foil in fencing, beach volleyball and certain weight categories in taekwondo,” he said. “This is something we believe in.”
As well as calling for an overhaul of the dilapidated infrastructure at Hadar Yosef Stadium and the Wingate Institute, Lustig is crossing his fingers that the different Olympic excellence bodies will soon all work together under one roof.
“Unfortunately, at the moment it is all divided. It is like a High school operating without knowing what is going on in a Junior school and a university not knowing how a High school functions,” he said. “We need to join forces and lay out a complete vision. I hope that the OCI and Sports Ministry will approve this. If they work together and set up this structure I think that Israeli sports will look very different.”
A final decision on the matter is expected to be made over the next couple of months.
The consequences of the mistakes of the past were clear for all to see in London.
For the sake of Israeli sports, lets at least hope that the right lessons have been learned.