A Pain in the Ass

Always different, always defiant - Israel at the Olympics simply refuses to be part of the family of nations.

It has been somewhat difficult, in Israel, to enjoy the 2012 Olympic Games, which are coming to a close overseas. The real problem was not the lack of wind in the sails in Weymouth that apparently prevented windsurfer Lee Korzits from standing on the podium, but rather the lack of Olympic spirit in general.

The rather childish yearning for a medal can somehow be forgiven. There is even something touching in the national obsession that lacks proportion and breaks out with the same perfect timing every four years. A kind of cry from the depths of the heart of a patently non-sporting nation, most of whose professional sportspeople have to rely on personal and family funding. Of course, there has to be a rational limit to the tolerance for this yearning. That limit should be found somewhere around the spot where an excited sports commentator calls, in a popular daily newspaper, for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry to look into the failure to win medals.

It seems as if we have also gotten used to the excessive interest in what is happening with the small Israeli contingent at the expense of concentrating on the dizzying abundance of general events. After all, it has a certain amount of logic: From the opening event with the march of the national contingents and until a national anthem is played when a gold medal is awarded, the Games put a great deal of emphasis on the competitors' country of origin.

In the case of Israel, this sickly sweet patriotism of the month of August also fulfills an educational role. It is a rare opportunity to showcase the efforts and excellence of a small number of sportspeople who are not soccer players and follow on a daily basis a more Sisyphean, less lucrative routine.

Precisely for that reason it was very frustrating to once again come across the perpetual infrastructure of ignorance and ill intentions that characterizes so many Israeli couch-potato sportsmen. The case of Gal Nevo was a representative example. At the very start of the Games, Nevo finished 10th in the heats of the 400 meters individual medley, breaking his personal best time. Tenth in the world in a competition that demands expertise in a combination of swimming styles, with only two swimmers separating him from a place in the final. However it was enough for many Internet commentators to offer to throw him water wings to assist him, or to ask whether he intended to remain in London at the taxpayers' expense.

All of this was aimed at a swimmer who is not tall, from a small kibbutz in the Beit She'an Valley, who exactly typifies the Olympic spirit that provided the inspiration for Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games. He told me once how he would practice in the Gan Hashlosha (Sahne ) National Park, swimming from side to side of the pool among the ducks when the regional council swimming pool was shut down.

However, it is difficult to complain about the general public when it is compared with the provincial image of the establishment and its representatives on the eve of the Games. These every four years renew their perpetual and obsessive demand for a moment of silence which will not take place, in memory of the murdered sportsmen in Munich. As if there is no opportunity to remember those murdered and to mourn their loss without that longed-for minute. At what point exactly would it have been suitable to include it in the joyous and spectacular Opening Ceremony? Between Mary Poppins and the Sex Pistols? Between Mr. Bean and Paul McCartney?

In any case, it transpired that Israel's senior official representative, President Shimon Peres, decided to stay away from that heartwarming ceremony; he chose to bow to that cowardly and hypocritical excuse of "profaning the Sabbath" - as if he was a religious person or the president of a fundamentalist theocracy.

The Minister of Sport (and Culture! ) Limor Livnat rushed to fill his place and put on a grotesque show in front of the heads of the International Olympic Committee in the form of a partisan minute of silence while she wore a black ribbon.

Always different, always defiant - on the perpetual continuum between suffering victims and a pain in the ass - Israel at the Olympics simply refuses to be part of the family of nations.