Sinai Says: Israeli athletics resurrection key to future

The Israeli Athletics Championships 2 weeks ago revealed the ugly truth and were a harsh reminder of the state of disrepair the sport is currently in.

Allon sinai 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Allon sinai 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In exactly one month the athletics competitions will take center stage at the Beijing Olympics. As always, the track and field contests will be the highlight of the Games and will attract unparalelled attention. Israel will be sending four representatives to the athletics events in China: marathon runner Haile Satayin, steeplechase runner Itai Magidi, high jumper Niki Palli and pole vaulter Alex Averbukh. Palli and Averbukh even have a good chance of reaching the final of their respected events, but any Israeli achievement in the athletics will only be masking the sad state of the sport in the country. The Israeli Athletics Championships two weeks ago revealed the ugly truth and were a harsh reminder of the state of disrepair the sport is currently in. Once again the results recorded by many of the athletes were embarrassing by international standards, but that is actually the least concerning aspect of the crisis plaguing athletics in Israel. Far more worrying is the fact that in many of the events the Israeli Athletics Association couldn't even get together a reasonably sized field of competitors. In the women's hammer throw, for example, there were only three throwers, with the winner hurling the hammer more than double of the distance of her two rivals. Even in the women's 400m race, one of the more basic events in the athletics program, just four runners competed. Athletics loses out to the more popular and lucrative sports of soccer and basketball in nearly every country across the globe, but in Israel the situation is far worse and the inability to put together a field at the national championships is a dire omen, signifying that the sport is essentially becoming instinct in the country. Like most Olympic sports in Israel, athletics also suffers from a lack of funding, which is most evident when you take a look at the dilapidated facilities at which the athletes competed at in the Israeli championships. The track at Israel's top athletics stadium at Hadar Yosef has quite simply disintegrated under the Israeli sun, with patched up cracks so big that they're clearly visible even from the stands. With pretty much only family members and amateur athletes attending the championships, gate receipts are non-existent and Israeli athletics is reduced to begging, as its only hope of renovating its facilities is by receiving government subsidies or donations. To make matters even worse, the implications of the desperate situation athletics finds itself in affects not just Israel's results at one of the most prestigious sports on earth, but sports as a whole in the country. Athletics is the basis to practically every competitive sport and gives young athletes a foundation to build on, regardless of the sport they eventually choose to compete in. If the current downward spiral athletics is experiencing continues, not only will Israel send no more than a handful of athletes to future Olympics, but we will also continue to ask ourselves year after year why the country's soccer and basketball players always seem to be slower and weaker than their opponents. A strong athletics program is essential to all future sporting success and the resurrection of athletics in Israel should be a priority to the country's incompetent sporting chiefs. [email protected]