Having served as Secretary General of the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI) since 1995, Efraim Zinger will be leading Israel’s delegation to his fifth Games.
“I still get thrilled about the Olympics,” he told the JC. “If I didn’t get excited it would be time to step down.”
Zinger has been working closely with OCI President Zvi Varshaviak for the past few years and although he is confident of a strong showing, he was keen to play down Israel’s chances.
“It is an enormous responsibility to get all the squad to the Games and bring them back,” he said. “There is enormous pressure too. Some in the Israeli media have been predicting a haul of four or five medals. That’s not realistic.
"Statistical analysis of our squad’s performances suggests we will win one-and-a-half medals. If we come back without a medal that will be a failure. If we win one or two that will be what we expect. If we win two or more and a gold that will be a success.”
Zinger, 58, served in the IDF Intelligence Unit during the Yom Kippur War. He was captured by the Syrians on Mount Hermon and was a POW in Damascus for seven months and returned in a prisoner exchange in 1974. He worked for the Jewish Agency, where he was the aliyah emissary in Boston, before taking up his position with the OCI.
He concedes that Israeli Olympic sport has been treading water since winning its first medals 20 years ago and Alex Shatilov in the artistic gymnastics and Neta Rivkin in the rhythmic gymnastics aside, any medals are likely to come from the traditional Israeli strong sports of judo, windsurfing and sailing.
“At the OCI we are like miners. We can only work with the resources at our disposal and we have been saying for a long time that Israel cannot rival the sports infrastructures of Europe and America.
“On the other hand, 80 countries have never won a medal, 125 countries have never won a gold and only a small number of countries have won medals at the past five consecutive Games.
“Each Olympics has its own special character, but London really knows what sportspeople need and the facilities put sportspeople at the centre. The London organisers are very professional and we expect a real celebration for participants and fans.”