A meeting between athletes from Israel and Iran looked to be as unlikely as ever
on Tuesday, just a day after a senior Iranian sporting official declared that
his delegation will compete against every country at the upcoming London
Bahram Afsharzadeh, head of the Iranian Olympic Mission, was
quoted as saying on Monday that his delegation had no plans to boycott events
because of the nationality of opponents. However, it took only a few hours for
the Iranian media to claim his comments were misinterpreted, although the
chances of an Iranian and an Israeli meeting at the 2012 Games are virtually
Following the withdrawal of judoka Javad Mahjoob, who may
have faced Israel’s Arik Ze’evi in the under-100 kilogram competition, the only
possible meeting between representatives of the feuding countries is in the 400-
meter to be run by Israel’s Donald Sanford and Iran’s Sajjad
However, with seven heats expected in the 400-meter, odds are
that Sanford and Hashemi will not be drawn together.
the slight chance that the two might share the same track was quashed on Tuesday
when a report by the Iran’s official news agency, Fars, claimed: “In a satanic
step, Zionist media published the words of the head of Iran’s Olympic Mission
who announced that the Iranian athletes will compete against the Zionist
regime’s representatives at the Olympics.”
The report came a day after
Afsharzadeh – who is also the secretary-general of the Iranian Olympic Committee
– seemed to guarantee that there will not be a repeat of the 2004 Athens Games
and 2008 Beijing Games where Iranian athletes withdrew from events against
“We will be truthful to sport,” said Afsharzadeh, speaking in
the athletes village after signing the “truce wall,” a UN-backed initiative
calling to end all hostilities around the world during the Olympics. “We just
follow the sportsmanship and play every country. In sport and in Olympics, all the countries must [be] together
with the teams in friendship. Solidarity for all the countries is very
Afsharzadeh even went as far as saying that Iran would
“respect” a minute of silence in memory of the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972
Munich Olympics – if it were held during Friday’s opening ceremony.
such commemoration is scheduled to take place.
Israeli athletes have come
to expect boycotts by Iranian colleagues. There have been numerous incidents in
global championships in different sporting events in recent years, as well as
two much-publicized episodes in the last two Olympics.
refused to compete alongside Israeli swimmer Tom Be’eri in the 100-meter
breaststroke heats in the Beijing Olympics four years ago, while judo world
champion Arash Miresmaeli disqualified himself to avoid a meeting with Israel’s
Ehud Vaks in the under-66 kilogram competition in the 2004 Athens Games.
Miresmaeli was later awarded the same $125,000 bonus Iran handed its gold medal
winners from the Athens Olympics.
Olympic Committee of Israel President
Zvi Varshaviak said Tuesday that he expected the Iranians to try and appease the
International Olympic Committee, but predicted that it was no more than a
“IOC President Jacques Rogge recently said that if they will
withdraw from competitions against Israelis they might as well not show up,”
Varshaviak told Army Radio ahead of his flight to London.
assume that they will not compete against us.
“If they happen to be drawn
against us they will bring a note from the doctor saying they have a stomachache
or their men will all of a sudden get their period.”