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 completely 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.
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.
This year, I was happy to see that they 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.
Then, a Saudi child refused to enter a judo competition because he was set to compete against an Israeli and now, a Syrian child has refused because he might have to shake the hand of the Israeli boxer in the ring.
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.
Why are they allowing politics to take front stage at the Olympics?
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.
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!
As for the Saudi who refused to challenge you – hey, he probably knew he was going to lose and didn’t understand that the dignity and honor of the competition is all in that moment when you simply enter the playing field.Paula Stern