LONDON - The opening ceremony of the London Olympics excites millions around the world, though not everyone is sold on it. Some say it's a grandiose event which wastes precious time and tires out athletes just before one of the most important moments of their career.
This issue occupies some members of Israel's delegation who are competing tomorrow. Misha Zilberman, Alex Shatilov, Felix Aronovich, Gal Nevo and the three tennis players will skip the ceremony. Sailors Lee Korzits, Gidi Kliger and Eran Sela will receive a much-desired rest. Shahar Zubari, the delegation's flag-bearer, made his way yesterday afternoon from the Weymouth Bay sailing venue to the Olympic village in London. His presence at the ceremony did not exactly make Gur Steinberg, who prepared the sailors for the Games, very happy.
"I'm don't really like it," says Steinberg. "I'm glad about the great honor Shahar received, and I'm happy for him, but I'd rather have the ceremonies after the race and not beforehand." Steinberg said he asked the Olympic Committee of Israel to allow his athletes to remain at Weymouth because he did not want the ceremony to distract them, and he's gotten his wish.
Zubari himself is very excited about the moment of truth. One Israeli athlete who won't be there to greet him is gymnast Valeria Maksyuta. Upon the advice of her coach, she decided to pass on the opening ceremony.
"I'll stay in the Olympic village," said Maksyuta with a hint of disappointment. "We spoke about it and thought what is most right to do, and we decided I'd miss it." She said she would have loved to have been there and have the whole country watch her, but she also had to decide what is truly important, which is to compete.
Efraim Zinger, the secretary-general of the Olympic Committee of Israel, says he was told tonight's ceremony would be more like the one held at the 2000 Sydney Games. He explained that the 2004 and 2008 ceremonies were long and exhausting affairs, which required arranging bus transportation. He said Thursday that the athletes would march from their quarters in alphabetical order by nation, and the logistics would involve less waiting.
"I'm full of hope this will be an impressive ceremony and wonderful experience that everyone will carry with them for life," he added.