World Games: Israeli delegation head hopes for gold — and increased support for athletes

by Larry Brook

(Israel InSight) — Arik Kaplan says “we have really good athletes that are going to be in Birmingham,” and he wants to be sure that Israel will be able to continue fielding delegations like that.

Kaplan is president and CEO of Ayelet, the Federation of Non-Olympic Competitive Sport in Israel. Ayelet is in charge of 32 sports federations for non-Olympic sports, including Wu-Shu, alpine, squash, tug of war, waterskiing, chess, sport climbing, cricket, American football, kickboxing, paragliding, bowling and saloon dance.

Because it isn’t the Olympics or the Paralympics, Ayelet does not get close to the same government support, and what they do get is minimal — especially when looking at the expenses involved in bringing a delegation of over 50 athletes to Birmingham. For example, there are 50 visa applications at around $200 each, and then airfare to get to Alabama, and it adds up.

Kaplan said that when he took over, they weren’t able to provide anything to champions in the sports, such as scholarships, or offer much assistance for athletes going abroad to compete or practice. “Now, they get something.”

Media coverage in Israel has also been a problem. There isn’t much in terms of sports journalism in Israel, so “if they write about us, it’s usually something bad has happened.”

But what about a large stage like the World Games to draw attention? It isn’t like the Olympics, where networks compete to secure broadcast rights. Rather, Kaplan said they did not have the funds to pay one of the channels for television time.

He hopes that the time in the U.S. will demonstrate the job they have been doing with minimal resources and attract supporters. The July 14 reception at Temple Beth-El includes an opportunity to help support the team.

Ayelet is working to bring “the best of the best” from Israel to international competitions, Kaplan said, and hopes to build on the Birmingham experience for the next World Games in Chengdu, China in 2025.