Olympic hopefuls get boost from tech companies

With government budgets for sports coming up short, tech companies have begun stepping in to support teams and individual athletes

Yarden Gerbi (L.) meets with Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Yarden Gerbi (L.) meets with Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox (Photo credit: Courtesy)

As corporate profits grow and government budgets shrink, Olympic hopefuls have been turning to high-tech companies for help in defraying the significant costs involved in getting to the Games. In the U.S., for example, AT&T joined in with the usual mix of athletic clothing manufacturers and fast food companies to sponsor the U.S. delegation headed for the 2012 games in London.

In places like Israel, where corporate sponsorship is perhaps more difficult to obtain (because there are fewer large companies that can afford the luxury of sponsoring room, board, flights, equipment, and stipends for dozens of players and trainers), and high-tech is such an important part of the economy, the idea of wealthy tech companies sponsoring teams and players seems natural.

Last summer, for example, the local R&D facility of South Korean tech giant Samsung was a sponsor of Israel’s delegation to the 2012 London Summer Olympics, donating not only cash, but also developing an app that let Israelis communicate directly with team members, sending them good wishes or congratulations on their accomplishments. In addition, each player received a Samsung Galaxy S III phone with which to read the messages.

Now, one of Israel’s home-grown tech successes – Mellanox, a major maker of networking equipment – has announced that it, too, will do its part to support Israel’s Olympic hopefuls. Mellanox announced last week that it would sponsor Yarden Gerbi, 2013 Judo World Champion in the under 63kg (139 lbs.) category and ranked first worldwide, as she attempts to qualify for and compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Gerbi isn’t the only Israeli judo champ Mellanox is sponsoring; the company has also helped judoka Tommy Arshansky, who won the bronze medal at the European Championship in judo in the under 60kg category held in Budapest this year.

“We believe in encouraging excellence and achievements while strengthening the infrastructure of education, science and technology, sports and culture. We are involved in order to encourage talents, and enable initiatives and successes of individuals in various domains for the better of our society,” said Eyal Waldman, president and CEO of Mellanox Technologies. “We are proud of Yarden’s talent, determination and achievements and are happy to accompany her on her career path on the way to the Olympic Games in 2016. We hope that more will follow Yarden’s hard work and success and achieve worldwide recognition as Yarden has by becoming the World Champion.”

“I am very happy that Mellanox will support me as it will allow me to dedicate myself to the excellence, values and hard work required of a world champion,” said Yarden Gerbi. “During my visit to the company, I got to know its history, its people and its unique way of thinking. It fascinated me. The company’s support gives me the strength to move forward toward my next goals, and I hope to continue fulfilling our dreams, the main one of which is the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.”

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