Israel’s Olympic Shame
Leaving London’s games without a single medal, Israel needs to get serious about its commitment to sports
Life is not much better for those deemed worthy: For the most part, successful athletes become state-sponsored employees and are richly rewarded regardless of their achievements. Starvation is no way to raise a champion, but neither is gluttony—none of these handsomely rewarded athletes achieved anything of merit, let alone a medal, in London. The few who did win medals in previous Olympic games—Israel has a total of seven—are not the rule but the exception.
If history is any guide, Livnat’s newly appointed investigatory committee is likely to find precisely what its predecessors had already discovered, namely that what Israeli sports so direly need is more money and more power in the hands of professionals who know what to do with it. Neither is easy to come by. Any real effort at reform will undoubtedly meet, as previous efforts had, with the claim that there’s not a shekel to spare; but just this week, the government approved a budget of NIS 8.3 million to transport a few mobile homes from Migron to a nearby settlement. This means that the 50 families that reside in Migron will receive nearly as much money from the state as Israel invests in all its professional sports associations combined.
Most of the world has already realized that sports are more than just a pleasant pastime; they’re an indication of a civic society’s health. According to a report by the global consulting firm Substance, investing in sports tends to empower underprivileged youth, bring about a reduction in crime, and contribute to overall economic growth. It’s sad that 65 other nations have ridden these insights all the way to the Olympic podium while the start-up nation did not. And thank God for the one athlete who did stand up as a winner in London, honoring the Israeli athletes slain in the Munich Olympics, and unleashing a torrent of Jewish pride: the gymnast Aly Raisman, born and trained in the USA.
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