Brits funding Israeli Olympic bid

By Jessica Elgot, November 24, 2011
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Gal Friedman

Gal Friedman

A coalition of British and international multi-millionaires have pledged financial support to the Israeli Olympic team, hoping success at the 2012 London Games will enhance the country's image.

The founding head of the newly- formed board of trustees for the Israeli Olympic Committee is London-based businessman Ynon Kreiz, who recently stepped down as chairman and chief executive of Big Brother production company Endemol. The board is separate from the Israeli Olympic Committee, but endorsed by it.

Mr Kreiz said: "The Games are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, right in our backyard, to have the whole world watching. If we do well it should send a message.

"The London Games will be the biggest stage ever. It's the ultimate platform to promote a positive image for Israel and there's nothing better than sport and music to bring people together. Sport is secular, not political, it represents a healthy lifestyle, fair play, equal opportunities, discipline and teamwork."

Shahar Peer

Shahar Peer

The current board of trustees reads like a "Who's Who" of British media and business moguls, Jewish and non-Jewish. They include the London-based former chairman of MTV International Bill Roedy, WPP's chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, businessman David Meller, Goldman Sachs vice chair Michael Sherwood, Daily Express owner and Norwood president Richard Desmond, and the British chairman of Universal Music, Lucian Grainge.

Mr Kreiz, whose wife Anat Fabrikant is a former Israeli Olympic rower, said: "We even have an Arab supporter, from the Middle East, but we are keeping his details confidential."

The funds raised, which should run into millions, will go to improving training facilities for Israeli athletes.

The committee has already raised £1m for the Israeli athletes from donations made at the Kensington home of billionaire Len Blavatnik.

Last week the public fundraising began, with the first in a series of high-profile concerts. Israeli singer Shalom Chanoch played to a sell-out crowd of 900 people, including the Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub.

Mr Kreiz said: "In March there will be an event for 1300 people with Israeli singer Svika Pik, currently a judge on the Israeli version of Pop Idol. In June, to coincide with Yom Ha'atzmaut, the most high-profile event will take place, at a major London venue."

The trustees will also help to arrange the memorial service during the 2012 Games to mark 40 years since the Munich Olympic tragedy, organised in conjunction with the Israeli embassy and the London Olympic Jewish Organising Committee.

UJIA chief executive Doug Krikler said the charity would be providing administrative support, although not actively fundraising. Mr Krikler and seven volunteers will serve as the British liaison to the Israeli team, managing their stay during London 2012.

He said: "The board hopes that fundraising will continue after 2012, but will be run by the Jewish community in the next host city, so the Rio Jewish community will take the reins from us."

Last updated: 5:19pm, March 2 2012