Israeli Olympic chiefs this week confirmed they will send the country’s largest ever delegation of athletes to this summer’s Rio Games – despite ongoing fears over the Zika virus which has led to calls for the event to be relocated or postponed.
Athletes from around the world are currently reconsidering their participation over the infection which transmitted through mosquito bites and is linked to birth defects that can cause severe brain damage in new-born babies.
Despite several high-profile British stars saying the rapid spread of the infection is “scary”, “daunting” and “worrying”, Israel insists all its athletes will travel to Brazil.
Doctor Lubov Galitskaya, the Israeli Olympic team physician, told Jewish News: “None of the athletes – or staff members – are considering cancelling their participation over health fears.
“We are happy to send our athletes to the Olympic Games in Rio, but of course are concerned about virus. We understand that the main risk groups are pregnant women so it is less relevant for us, but at the same time we are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of infection.”
He added: “We receive regular reports from the World Health Organisation, including [issuing] traveller’s advise from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re also updating our athletes and staff members on a regular basis and will give them all the necessary information and instructions, not just during the Olympics but also on their return home.”
Israel will send its largest delegation to the Games. Dudi Sela last week qualified for the tennis event to become the 45th member of the squad – two more than its previous record set in Beijing in 2008.
And while the country has only managed to win seven medals – five gold, one silver and one bronze, athletes have been given an incentive to reach the podium after the Olympic Committee of Israel announced every gold medal winner will be awarded a NIS 500,000 (£90,000) bonus, as well as an apartment worth NIS 1,000,000 (£180,000) from one of the OCI’s sponsors. Silver medalists will be awarded NIS 400,000 (£71,000), bronze will receive NIS 250,000 (£44,000), while those who finish between fourth and 12th place will also be awarded performance bonuses.