The European Short Course Swimming Championships 2015 will open in Netanya on Tuesday, December 2. The president of the Israel Swimming Association Noam Zvi has promised that Israel will offer the competing athletes a spectacular welcome.
The event marks the first time the Swimming Championships have taken place in Israel. This in spite of the fact that in the past few weeks many attempts were made to push the organizers to move them to a different venue.
Italy and Italian Paolo Barelli, the president of LEN (the European governing body for aquatic sports), played an essential role in rejecting the efforts of Hungary to persuade the various national swimming associations to agree to move the Championships to Hungary, citing “security concerns” after the latest wave of terror attacks in Israel.
“Already before the Paris attacks, the wide media coverage of the ‘Intifada of knives’ caused some apprehension, some was in good faith, and some was not,” Barelli told Pagine Ebraiche. He highlighted how he contacted the Israeli organizers to discuss the situation and they were happy to confirm the venue.
According to the Italian daily La Stampa, by exploiting the fears of some countries and athletes, Hungary hoped to reach three goals at once: being able to host a prominent sport event themselves, weakening the Italian leadership of LEN (and therefore getting back at Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who recently denounced Budapest as one of the greatest threats to Europe) and breaking the confinement the country is facing because of its handling of the refugee crisis.
A former swimmer, Barelli made his debut at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, when the Israeli delegation was massacred by Palestinian terrorists. He therefore stressed how contributing to organizing the Championships in Israel has had a special meaning for him.
“Italy is going to be in Netanya with the best swimmers and we hope we will leave our mark on the competition,” he said.
In the past few days the media has reported that the majority of German swimmers were considering skipping the Championships due to security concerns.
Also the Italian swimming star Federica Pellegrini expressed similar fears. However, she will be in Israel, alongside the other Italian top swimmers, including current 1500-meter free style world champion, Gregorio Paltrinieri.
“After Paris, it is even more evident than in the past that it is impossible to foresee future events. The alternative is to stay at home hiding in the dark protected by curtains. This would not be a life. Putting us in the corner is exactly what the terrorists want,” Paltrinieri explained in an interview to La Stampa.