At a Sunday press conference in Tel Aviv, the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI) formally named its 36-member team for this year’s summer Olympics in London. The team, though smaller than the 43-athlete team which competed in Beijing in 2008, is being called “the best quality squad we have ever had” by Zvi Varshaviak, president of the OCI.
The delegation is pegged to compete in eight different sports.
At the conference, Mr. Varshaviak expressed hope that Israel would set a benchmark for its success at the 2012 Olympics. “In previous Olympics we hoped for two and usually won one, but this time I believe that we can return with three,” he said.
Israel has won at least one medal in every summer Olympics since 1992. Winning three medals would break Israel’s previous record of two medals at a single Games,which occurred in Barcelona in 1992 and Athens in 2004. In Athens, Israel won its only gold medal to date, with windsurfer Gal Fridman in the category of sailing. Fridman is also the only Israeli to win multiple Olympic medals.
Shahar Zubari, a windsurfer and medalist who won bronze in Beijing four years ago, was announced as the official carrier of the Israeli flag at the opening ceremony this summer. Zubari is the only returning Israeli Olympian who has won a medal in a previous Olympic games, although close to fifty percent of the Israeli delegates competing this summer have participated in previous games. About fifty percent of the delegates are also female, a fact that the OCI is notably proud of.
In the Paralympics, Israel has had more notable success, winning 113 Paralympic Gold Medals in total. Israel also hosted the Paralympic Games in 1968.
Israel’s 2012 team, selected from 100 competitors who attempted to meet the Olympic criteria to compete, could increase by one athlete, either high-jumper Dima Kroyter or shot-putter Anastasia Muchkayev, depending on their performances in the European Athletics Championship, scheduled to begin this Wednesday in Helsinki. The Israeli team also includes the tennis duo of Yoni Erlich and Andy Ram, however they have not been guaranteed spots at the Games by the International Tennis Federation.
This year’s Olympics have been preceded by a storm of media attention surrounding the attempted addition of a minute of silence at the opening ceremony, in commemoration of the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at coaches at the Munich Games. Despite letters from the Israeli government and multiple United States Conressmen, the International Olympic Committee rejected the proposal to commemorate the massacre, with some members of the Committee citing a fear of politicizing the games, and alienating those with disagreements with Israel.
The Algerian Olympic Committee has threatened to withdraw from competition against Israeli athletes at this summer’s games. Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, called such discrimination “a serious breach” of the Olympic code of ethics, and told athletes with political bias to “stay at home.”