Monday, August 1, 2011
Israel counts down to London 2012
In a special session at the Knesset, Ambassador Gould invites Israeli athletes to take part in the greatest show on earth.
Israel kicked off the One Year to London 2012 countdown today with a special session at the Knesset in the presence of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat. Among the 300 guests were Israeli athletes, past, present and future, as well as Ministers and Members of Knesset.
In his speech to the session, British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould officially invited the Israeli delegation to participate in the London 2012 Games. He told the packed auditorium that "in every Olympic Games, the book of stories gets longer. In London, more stories will be written. Some of them will be written by you. So we invite you to Britain. We want each and every one of you to be part of Britain’s story too."
The Ambassador continued: "To Israeli students, I invite you to a country which is home to four of the top ten universities in the world. Many Israeli students have been put off coming by the image of British universities as hotbeds of anti-Israeli sentiment. That image is false. Do not let a loud but tiny minority dissuade you from what will be an amazing experience.
"To Israeli businesspeople, I invite you to one of the most open, creative, dynamic economies in the world. The world now knows about Israel’s high-tech miracle. Britain is natural partner for Israel in high tech. In East London, around the Olympic site, we are building Tech City, the British Silicon Valley. But unlike Silicon Valley, we are just a few hours flight away.
"To Israeli sports fans, I invite you not just to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, but to the home of the Premier League, to the home of Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal. To Israeli Olympians, I invite you to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. The venues are built, the city is ready, the welcome will be warm, and the world will be watching."
The Ambassador also paid tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by terrorists in the 1972 Munich games. "It is impossible to say the words Olympic Games without recalling that awful moment in Munich, devastating in its scope and tragic in its consequences. It is almost forty years since the world watched those shadowy hooded figures on a Munich balcony, and collectively mourned the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. The world saw then the very worst in humanity."
He continued on to say, "In a savage echo, Britain too experienced the barbarism of terror, as in 2005, Londoners went, within 24 hours, from the thrill of winning the Olympic bid, to the horrors of 52 innocent victims murdered in four attacks around London.
"Our countries have been united in grief, and remain united in the determination to defend ourselves against terror. But we also share the knowledge that we must defend our values in the face of terror. That we are fighting for the values of democracy and the rule of law that sit at the heart of our societies, and which give our societies their true strength and their resilience. These are values of fairness and tolerance that speak to the essence of the Olympic ideal."
Head of LOCOG, Sebastian Coe recorded a special video message for the Israeli athletes and at the end of the ceremony, the Israeli Olympic contingent took to the stage for an official group photo together with the Ambassador and Israeli officials.