Monday, August 8, 2016

Separating the Sportsmen from the Children

The Olympics are, for much of the world, an exciting opportunity to watch what can arguably be called the largest, most diverse and clearly most global competition that takes place just once every four years. For Israelis, the Olympics comes each time with tremendous emotional baggage. I was 12 years old when the Israelis went to Munich. I remember clearly being told that there had been a terror attack and Israelis were being held hostage.

From that moment, the sun stopped shining, the world stopped turning. My complete focus was on Munich...and then, the Olympic committee ordered the games to continue and I was torn between anger deeper than any I had ever felt and utter shock. How...how could they play games while men's lives were in danger? My 12-year-old mind looked to the adults, begged them to explain how it was possible that the games would continue. Nothing had meaning; the essence of the Olympics - the values, all gone. The Olympics were supposed to be about bringing mankind closer together to share a commonality that crosses borders but once again, Israel was made to stand alone.

It was our team, our world, our Jews isolated, held hostage, and ultimately murdered and mutilated. Even that fact was kept from us for over 20 years. Mutilated. That's what the Palestinian terrorists under the guidance of Mahmoud Abbas did. But we didn't know that then. We held on to the desperate hope that somehow this would turn around.

And then word that the Germans had mounted a rescue...some rescue...I would learn later. Three of the hijackers survived and all of the hostages were murdered? You call that a rescue? The Olympics were never the same for me. I barely can watch them. For all of these forty plus years, even a moment of silence was denied to these men who had come ready to join what was supposed to be the ultimate symbol of hope and peace. Each time the games were held, we held our breaths. Just let them come home safely. That's really all we want each time. A medal is nice, but please God, just let them be safe.

This year, I was happy to see that the Olympic committee had finally agreed to recognize the murdered Israelis and the opening ceremony was set to be a great event. Only the Lebanese children didn't want to play nicely. They refused to allow the Israeli team to board the bus.

I'm proud of the Israeli team for refusing the Olympic committee's attempt to divide the group and spread them among the other buses, and I'm baffled at what idiot thought to put the Lebanese and Israeli teams together in the first place. And when the Lebanese blocked the doors of the bus, why didn't the Olympic committee members order them to get off the bus, load the Israelis on, and hand the Lebanese a map to the Stadium and tell them they should hurry or they would miss the ceremony.

Then, right after the Lebanese children escaped without being disciplines, a Saudi child refused to enter a judo competition because he was set to compete against an Israeli man. And again, the Olympic committee didn't turn around and tell the Saudis to pack their bags and leave. The Olympics is not meant for spoiled brats. But no, nothing. Silence - as sickening and wrong as the silence that descended back in 1972 when people asked how the games could possibly go on. And now, a Syrian child has refused to enter the competition because he might have to shake the hand of the Israeli boxer. And again, why is the Syrian team told to make their way back to the airport and fly back to their peaceful home where more than 400,000 Syrians have been killed while much of the world does little to really stop the violence.

Once again, the Olympic committee chooses the path of silence and shame, as they did in 1972, as they did for 40 years, and now as they watch in silence as three Arab countries attempt to humiliate Israel. And the irony is that the only ones who should feel humiliated are the so-called athletes of these countries.

Since it is clear that these actions were part of the will of their teams, I am baffled as to why the Olympic committee is not automatically disqualifying these teams entirely from the competition.

The Olympic committee will have to explain why they allow politics to take front stage at the Olympics?

On the bright side, with each refusal, Israelis are becoming less angry and more amused. Ultimately, as I watched Israeli's champion, Sagi Muki compete in the semi-finals, I saw a man, a sportsman and more, I saw grace, maturity, and respect as he entered the competition, and lost.

The Olympics really isn't about winning or losing. It isn't really about the medals. It is about coming together, putting aside the politics of nations and sharing what should be the love of competition, the fun of the sport. It is about the dignity of trying your hardest and showing that there is no shame in not winning because merely to get to the point of competing shows you are a champion.

Shame on the Lebanese, Saudi, and Syrian children who will, perhaps, one day grow up and hopefully recognize how utterly childish they were, there in front of all the world to see. Congratulations to the Israeli team for acting with dignity and self-respect, for making us all proud.

It really isn't about how many medals you win or you don't win; it's how you enter the competition and how you leave it. Sagi, we are all proud of you...you are a champion simply for how you behaved and we in Israel salute you!



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