(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Or Sasson completed the Israeli delegation’s participation in the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, but the storm surrounding the decision to compete in the event even though the athletes weren’t allowed to do so under the Israel flag has only just begun.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said on Sunday she will call an emergency meeting with the heads of local sports associations to discuss the issue and has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help her in the fight to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Israel’s judokas were not allowed to compete in Abu Dhabi with the Israel flag on their judo uniform as they do in every other event across the world and instead of having ISR (Israel) by their name on the scoreboard and on their backs, they took part in the contest as representatives of the IJF (International Judo Federation).
“The banning of the Israel flag in an international competition of this magnitude is a failure which I will not overlook,” said Regev. “I plan to recruit all the forces in Israel, including the prime minister and Israeli diplomacy, in order to prevent a ban on Israeli sport, and the values and symbols of this country. We will not compromise on this matter.
“The athletes are not at fault, they are our ambassadors.We stand behind them and are committed to enable them to raise the flag and sing the national anthem with pride and without fear,” she added.
Israel’s delegation returns home on Monday after claiming two medals. Sagi Muki earned a bronze in the men’s under-81 kilogram competition, with Yarden Gerbi also winning a bronze on Saturday in the women’s under-63 kg. event.
While Regev and fellow MKs are up in arms over the matter, Israeli International Olympic Committee member Alex Gilady insisted there is no reason to jump to conclusions before it becomes clear what exactly had unfolded in the UAE.
Gilady told The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday that he believes that the recent decision to revoke Olympic Qualification status of the Asian Shooting Championship in Kuwait due to its refusal to issue a visa for the technical delegate from the International Sports Shooting Federation, Yair Davidovich of Israel, holds far greater significance.
“Upon request of the International Sports Shooting Federation, the IOC Executive Board today [October 29] revoked the Olympic Qualification status of the Asian Shooting Championship taking place in Kuwait City between November 1 and 12,” read an IOC press release. “The decision comes after the designated Technical Delegate from the ISSF, Yair Davidovich [Israel], who was due to supervise the event on behalf of the ISSF, was denied a visa by the Kuwaiti Immigration Department. The denial of a visa is against the nondiscrimination principle of the Olympic Charter. The Olympic Charter must apply for all Olympic Qualification competitions.”
“We still don’t know what happened in Abu Dhabi,” explained Gilady. “I think that the decision to cancel the shooting competition in Kuwait is the integral decision.
The decision to act in such instances was only passed by the IOC on October 22 and it has already been implemented. We will continue to fight for the athletes. We always put the athletes above all else.”