Sinai says: Rogge misses a golden opportunity

IOC president sent the worst message possible by failing to deal with Iran’s abuse of its athletes.

The inaugural Youth Olympics will come to a close in Singapore on Thursday, and the games will of course be hailed as a massive success by IOC president Jacques Rogge.
The 12-day event, which featured 3,500 athletes between 14 and 18 years of age from 205 countries in 26 Olympic events, is Rogge’s brainchild, and it would be naive to expect the Belgian sports bureaucrat to utter a single bad word about his creation.
However, the first-ever Youth Games marked a sad moment in Olympic history. Iran’s ridiculous stance not to allow its athletes to face Israelis raises outrage time and again.
However, these Olympics should not be remembered by Mohammad Soleimani’s withdrawal from the gold medal fight against Gili Haimovitz in the taekwondo under-48 kilogram competition, but for Rogge’s pathetic response to Iran’s disdain for fair play.
Despite unequivocal evidence to the contrary, Rogge dismissed claims by Israel that Soleimani was forced to fake an injury to avoid facing Haimovitz, squandering an opportunity to put an end this ongoing Iranian disgrace.
“The athlete did not participate in the competition because of a foot injury,” Rogge said last Tuesday, two days after Haimovitz was gifted Israel’s first Youth Olympics gold. “He was driven to the hospital, was examined by a Singaporean doctor, totally independent, not belonging to the organization and he diagnosed an ankle sprain. For us, that’s the end of the story.”
Rogge’s reaction would be appropriate had this been the first time an Iranian athlete had to forgo his life-long dream to conform to his country’s pitiable politics.
However, Iran has a long history of avoiding competing with Israelis in virtually every international sport one can imagine, including in the last two Olympic Games.
In the 2008 Beijing Games, Mohammad Alirezaei refused to compete alongside Israeli swimmer Tom Be’eri in the 100- meter breaststroke heats. Four years earlier, judo world champion Arash Miresmaeli disqualified himself to avoid a meeting with Israel’s Ehud Vaks in the under-66kg competition and was later awarded the same $125,000 prize money Iran handed its gold medal winners from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Rogge went on to say last week that the Games would be judged on the athletes making use of the cultural and educational programs rather than on its attendance figures and television ratings. But he himself sent the worst message possible by failing to deal once and for all with Iran’s abuse of its athletes.
Iran remains the only country that persists with this shamefulness, doing so with an inexplicable religiousness. Palestinians and Syrians, for example, compete freely against Israelis.
Furthermore, the Iranians refuse to take responsibility for their actions, for if they do, a punishment from the different sporting governing bodies will be swift to follow.
Rogge’s comments have proven yet again that the IOC has no intention of standing up to the politicization of sports, choosing instead to cowardly turn a blind eye.
Rogge had the chance to be remembered as the man who put a stop to this reprehensible behavior, but he ended up only encouraging the Iranians.
Hopefully, the next IOC president will have the backbone to finally bring this spineless conduct to an end.