Zvi Warshaviak
Zvi Warshaviak Photo by Television screenshot
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Zvi Warshaviak did not mince his words on Monday when he announced his resignation as chairman of the Olympic Committee of Israel: “Had we returned from London with a medal would that mean there is sports here?” he asked rhetorically. Warshaviak has been in the post since 1996.

He named three reasons for his decision to step down: “The first is my age – I’m not 15 anymore, nor 37, but rather 74," adding that he will be 78 by the end of the next Summer Games, in Brazil in 2016, if I stay, I’ll be 78. The second issue is ensuring that every Olympic athlete will have maximal conditions to prepare for the Games, and the third: that those who want to replace me will be deserving of the post. In my opinion, all these conditions have been met,” Warshaviak said.

Warshaviak , who turns 74 on Tuesday, (today), also serves on the boards of the Maccabi World Union and Kfar Maccabiah and is a member of the Israel Sports Betting Board. Previous positions he has held include secretary of the OCI, chairman of the Maccabi secretariat in Israel and chairman of the Israel Table Tennis Association.

Warshaviak said he is accustomed to criticism. “Before the London Olympic Games I said this would be my last term in office. The fact is that even after the gold medal in Athens people told me to resign.

“I started with Atlanta in 1996 – the Israel Sports Association had just been disbanded, the bodies representing minor sports remained neglected and with that we left for the Olympic Games,” Warshaviak said before listing his accomplishments as head of the OCI. Chief among these were five Olympic medals, none of them in the London Games last summer.

“After the great achievements in European championships in various fields of sport we announced [before the Games] that we expected three medals. Most of the Israeli athletes – if you compare expectations with their results – achieved their targets. The athletes from whom we expected medals were the ones who disappointed. I cannot say they didn’t try their hardest. It could be that some athletes, [gymnast] Alex Shatilov for example, simply couldn’t take the pressure. Maybe the thought that everyone already saw him with a medal was what made him fail. Not one of the prattlers and hecklers did not expect [windsurfer] Lee Korzits not to return with a medal, having won the gold medal at the World Championships half a year earlier,” Warshaviak said.

“London left us rather ruffled, because ever since the [1992] Barcelona Games the Israeli delegation has always returned home with at least one medal. I ask myself, if we had returned from London with medals that means that there is sport in Israel? I don’t think so. Maybe this situation will put us back in our place. The results in London showed the lack of sport and sportspeople in Israel – there are 70,000 sportspeople here, half of them soccer and basketball players. Before the Olympic Games in Brazil we’ll have to search with a microscope and tweezers to find medal candidates.”

Warshaviak will step down on February 10. Members of the Maccabi sports union – who comprise a majority of the OCI – expected to vie for the post include the honorary treasurer and board member Arie Zief and Igal Carmi, chairman of Maccabi Israel.