Valeriia Maksiuta of Israel falls off the asymmetric bars during the women's gymnastics
Valeriia Maksiuta of Israel falls off the asymmetric bars during the women's gymnastics qualification in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

The 37 Israeli athletes who set out for London to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games were "the highest-quality delegation ever," according to the heads of the Olympic Committee of Israel. But barring a surprise win by our rhythmic gymnasts this will be the first Israeli contingent since 1988 to return from the games without a medal.

The athletes, the coaches and the professionals who accompanied them invested a lot of effort, but so do their competitors all over the world, and the latter seem to do it better. With the exception of its swimmers all the Israeli squad could deliver in its moments of truth was a string of failures.

Israel's national Olympic committee, headed by Zvi Warshaviak, did not meet any of its own goals - to maintain the unbroken chain of medals set in 1988, to put a woman on the winner's podium and to win a medal in a new sport. But despite this failing, to judge by past experience no one will be held accountable.

The failure cannot be attributed to a lack of resources. There is a lot of money in Israeli sports, but it is not allocated properly. Most of it goes to the most popular sports of soccer and basketball because they, and especially soccer, are a source of revenue, much of which comes from the Israel Sports Betting Board. As a result, instead of investing the money in Olympic infrastructure it goes to soccer stadiums.

This is a structural error: For the price cost of a new soccer stadium, such as one opened six months ago in Petah Tikva, for example, dozens of gymnasiums serving thousands of children and teenagers could be built.

Long-term development of sports requires an investment in future generations. The problem is that in Israel there is no sports education, no sports consciousness and no sports culture. A large proportion of high school graduates complete 12 years of education without participating in any sport, even as a pastime.

For Israeli sports to get back on track there must be a revolution, not just in funding but primarily in education and attitude.

It's an ongoing, Sisyphean effort, just like sports training, but there is no alternative.