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Special to the JTA Flexing Israel’s Olympic Skills

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The furor created by Israel’s poor showing in the Olympic Games is beginning to abate. Isaac Ofek, president of the Israel Olympic Committee, said he believed that “after the trauma of our unsuccessful efforts dissipates, our citizens will realize, as we of the Olympic Committee have right along, that if any blame for our disappointing performances is to be pinned down it is not due to the efforts of our athletes but rather that of the government itself.”

Ofek stressed in a an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that he was not referring to the present Likud government but to the “first body of parliamentarians” who took office right after the State of Israel was formed. “From the first day of operation, our government showed little regard for organizing a viable sports entity which could compete with the rest of the world,” he stated. “We were encumbered with so many problems that there was little time or money available to get involved in producing champion quality sports people.”

Ofek said he was glad that Education Minister Zevulun Hammer has asked yaariv Oren, director of sports in the Ministry of Education, to set up a symposium to study ways and means whereby the government can help in preparing for the 1988 Olympics, scheduled to be held in Seoul.

HAVE TO OVERCOME LETHARGY

“We have to snap out of our lethargy and learn how to apply the latest scientific devices and computers now available in sports programs in many of the countries around the world,” Ofek said. “We have to emulate the smaller nations who have learned the big-time approach to their sports programs.” He acknowledged that such an approach “is costly,” but asserted that if Israel is to compete in the Olympics “we must find ways and means to secure funding for our overall Olympic program.”

Ofek pointed out that “an assist from our government financially would aid tremendously.” He noted, by way of example, that Israel’s top canoeist, Aviram Mizrachi, who failed to make the Olympic finals by 72/100 of a second, “would be one to benefit by more coaching here and abroad.”

Ofek also noted that Israel’s “better athletes might be helped to attend universities in the United States, like so many swimmers and track and field athletes from small countries have been doing in the past decade. We have to bring in coaches from abroad to work with our coaches in developing better prepared competitors. If we adopt, with the help of our government, some of these approaches, we should do better in the future, otherwise our prospects are gloomy, to say the least. There are no more miracles in sports.”

SOME OPTIMISM FOR THE FUTURE

But Ofek expressed some optimism about the future. He said that Arie Selinger, coach of the U.S. gold medal women’s volleyball team, and Gideon Ariel, a U.S. Olympic consultant in computer sports methods, are ready to help Israeli athletes flex their muscles and skills in future Olympic Games. Ofek said Selinger “is prepared to return to Israel to help our volleyball team.” His return, however, “depends on finances which will have to be made available for this purpose.”

If the government of Israel — Likud or Labor or a unity government — can come to appreciate the needs of the country in the arena of Olympic competitions, then Israeli athletes have an excellent chance of bringing home some medals, Ofek opined, noting that Israel has not won a single medal since it entered the Olympics in 1952.

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