Israel President Shimon Peres, after receiving the Nobel Prize, an honorary British knighthood, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, a string of honorary doctorates and numerous other awards, has added yet another to his trophy case.
A delegation of the Israel Olympic Committee, headed by chairman Yigal Carmi, including a group of the country’s outstanding Olympic and Paralympic athletes on behalf of the International Olympic Committee presented Peres with his latest recognition, a bust of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics.
“The year 2013 had been declared the year for the advancement of the Olympic values of peace and camaraderie, and no one symbolized those ideals more than Peres,” said Carmi, underscoring that Peres had dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace and had disseminated his desire for peace throughout Israel and beyond.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Carmi also noted that Peres had been a keen supporter of sport and had attended the Olympic Games in Athens and Beijing to demonstrate his enthusiasm for the Israeli team. Although Carmi did not mention the fact, Peres has also hosted receptions for the Olympic and Paralympic teams before their departures abroad and again on their return home. The Peres Center for Peace actively encourages Israeli and Palestinian athletes to join forces to play against teams from other countries.
Peres said that he was very touched to be selected for the award but was not sure whether he deserved it, because it was the athletes past and present whose achievements had brought glory to Israel, something that he considered to be remarkable for so small a country. Peres emphasized the value of sport as an educational tool, saying that sport was opposed to racism. He instanced the inclusion of champion track and field athlete Jesse Owens, an Afro-American who scored four gold medals in the 1936 Munich Olympics.
Racism is one of the worst scourges in the world, said Peres, adding that he preferred sporting contests to wars. “In war you have to kill the enemy. In sport you have to defeat your rivals, but no one is harmed or killed.”
This article originally appeared in The Sport Intern. The Sport Intern editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.