During the State’s First Decade Israel had to deal with existential challenges. One of the challenges was isolation in the international arena. This article examines the way in which sports was used as a means of implementing the goals of the young state, especially in the field of propaganda. During the first decade of statehood, Israel sent delegations to three Olympic Games: Helsinki, Melbourne and Rome. The achievements in sports were secondary compared to the representative role that athletes were required to play. Toward the end of the decade, the notions of pioneering and cooperation gave way to instrumentalist-individualist-capitalist spirit. The code of amateurism that had characterized sports during the pre-state period and in the first years of statehood slowly dissipated. The privatization of sports heralded the end of the era in which athletes served as ambassadors.
Udi Carmi and Orr Levental are with Ohalo College, Upper-Galilee, Israel.