Israeli judo fighter Tal Flicker.
(photo credit: LASZLO BALOGH/REUTERS)
Israeli judoka Tal Flicker scaled the top of the podium and received his gold medal on Thursday, but the Israel national anthem was not played and the blueand- white flag was not raised in Abu Dhabi.
The 25-year-old won the under-66 kilogram category competition at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam, but he had to do so under the flag of the International Judo Federation (IJF), with the event organizers refusing to allow the Israeli team to compete under their country’s flag.
The organizers claimed that, due to security reasons, the Israelis can’t have their flag on their judo uniform and instead of having ISR by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs, they would have to take part as representatives of the IJF, the International Judo Federation.
For the same reason, they explained that should an Israeli win a gold medal, “Hatikva” would not be played.
When Flicker received his medal, the IJF played its own anthem in place of Israel’s.
Nevertheless, Flicker was seen singing “Hatikva” from atop the podium.
The delegation, numbering 12 athletes, arrived in Abu Dhabi, the capital and the second most populous city of the United Arab Emirates, via Amman on Tuesday, a day later than scheduled.
The judokas had waited for seven hours at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday, only to return home, frustrated after being told that they couldn’t pick up their visas to Abu Dhabi in Istanbul as they had been told.
International Judo Federation president Marius Vizer sent a letter to the organizers on Monday demanding that “the Israeli delegation shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects.”
Vizer wrote in his letter that the IJF statutes “clearly provide that the IJF shall not discriminate on the ground of race, religion, gender or political opinion.”
However, Abu Dhabi officials still insisted that Israel take part in the event under the IJF flag.
That did nothing to discourage Flicker or Israel’s Gili Cohen, who also picked up a medal on Thursday, taking a bronze in the women’s under-52 kg. competition.