This is the first time, since 1988, that Israeli athletes return from the Olympic games without any medals. None. It’s not like we usually bring more than one, but this was still one hell of a national disappointment. This was the first time I watched the Olympic Games, and after a while, I stopped watching games involving Israelis, simply because it is a true downer.
We can’t help but being sentimental here, because here, we are all brothers and sisters. I had at least two friends tagging the athletes on Facebook, wishing them good luck, which means I know most of the athletes by a second degree. That’s how it’s like here, in Israel. We all know each other somehow. It’s partially because we live in such a small place, but mostly because our shared experiences are many, and our warm nature help us make friends faster than Usain Bolt. When we send a representation to a worldwide competition, we all cross our fingers, sharing their tension and excitement, and later their happiness or disappointment. Each and every loss in the Olympics was like punch in the gut for each and every one of us. But even when we’re down, we don’t forget to do the other Israeli thing- hugging strangers. The Israeli athletes’ Facebook pages were filled with “we are proud of you, no matter what” messages, and with every news article that mentioned the word “disappointment,” came the words: “but still a champion.”
I don’t know if you feel it there, in the US. I mean, I know you are very proud of your athletes and that they are now the well- deserved biggest stars nowadays, but do you sympathize with every achievement and every loss? I lately wonder how much would I care about the games if we would have won every second competition. Because now, during these Olympic games, is the first time I feel like Israel is as far away as it gets from the States. On a day to day basis, both countries share common goals and a way of life. When it comes to economics, media, culture, and pretty much anything but size, I feel like we are very much alike. Israel, in spite of being in the middle of the Middle East, is a very progressive western state, that can be said in one breath with the US, Britain, or Germany. In the past couple of weeks, Israel was mostly mentioned in one breath with third world countries.
It’s hard to see Lee Kurzits, Alex Shatilov, Arik Ze’evi and the rest of the team return home with their heads bowed. It’s hard to see them looking for excuses, and feeling guilty for not being able to meet with the expectations. No one knows if it was bad luck or if we were just naïve to believe we can match up to other athletes. After all, for many reasons, known and unknown, the government chooses to put the big bucks in security or education, and not in sports. The bottom line is, we send to London world champions who came back to a strange mixture of appreciation and disappointment. Now, we can only do what we do best: keep up our optimism, hug our national heroes, and hope the lesson will be taught in time for 2016, where we will win.