Israeli athletes barred from representing country in Abu Dhabi's grand slam

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Monday, the Israel Judo Association responded after organisers of the judo grand slam in Abu Dhabi told chairman of the Israel Judo Association Moshe Ponte Israeli athletes would not be permitted to wear the Israeli flag or symbols, or bear the country's name on their judo uniform.

Ponte communicated with Miri Regev, Israeli minister of Culture and Sports, and considered withdrawing the team from the grand slam, which is scheduled to be held from October 26 to 28. Regev wrote a letter addressing Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, which read, "The demand to appear without national symbols is contrary to the mandate of international sports associations, the main aim of which is to separate politics from sport, and strengthen sport as a bridge and connection between peoples, cultures and countries." She also wrote, "It is the obligation of any country which has the privilege of hosting an international competition to allow the competing athletes to represent the country honorably while ensuring their security."

Officials of the Abu Dhabi judo grand slam said the players would not be allowed to bear Israel's code "ISR" on their back, nor would it appear on the scoreboard, and the Israeli national anthem would not be played if any Israeli judoka wins a gold medal. However, the Israel Judo Association said, "We won't be dragged into the political arena and won't award prizes to those who want to deter us from appearing all over the world." Twelve Israeli judokas are expected to compete in the grand slam in the capital of the UAE. They would represent the International Judo Federation, and their jersey would show an "IJF" tag.

About two years ago, Israeli athletes faced the same situation in the grand slam in the UAE's capital, and Regev asked for an emergency meeting then.

In last year's Olympics in Rio de Janiro, after losing to Israeli judoka Or Sasson, Islam El Shehaby of Egypt refused to shake hands. The International Olympic Committee said this gesture "was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic values."

During the opening ceremony of the same tournament, the Israeli team were denied by Lebanese athletes to share a bus, even physically blocking the entrance to prevent Israelis from boarding the bus. Israeli's sailing coach Udi Gal, in a Facebook post, wrote, "How could they let this happen on the eve of the Olympic Games? Isn't this the opposite of what the Olympics represents?".

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