Now that the 2016 Summer Olympic games have wrapped up, I wanted to share with you the mission statement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that organizes the Summer and Winter Olympic games, this is important because it shares what the values of the Olympics are supposed to be: “The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination or any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
The IOC’s bold vision to put aside global politics for a few weeks to become the conduit through which the world can see how nations from all around the globe can unite under the banner of sportsmanship to help build a more peaceful world, so that our children would see a spirit of friendship and camaraderie worked out in fair play is a noble one for sure.
But what happens when a few delegations go rogue and forget the mission of the Olympic games? What happens when certain countries forget that their lack of sportsmanship is educating youth that it’s ok to discriminate? Well, this did happen, and the victim of such bigotry was the State of Israel.
Many majority-Muslim countries discriminated against Israel in Rio in the form of unsportsmanlike conduct. For instance, on the first night a bus scheduled to take the Lebanese and Israeli delegations to the opening ceremony found itself to be the center of an international conflict when the head of the Lebanese team physically stood in the way of the Israeli team from getting on board. The Olympic organisers had to order a special bus for the Israeli team, and the head of the Israeli delegation said, “The behavior of the head of the Lebanese delegation contradicts the Olympic Charter.”
If these individuals are too immature to practice simple sportsmanlike conduct, just think of how difficult it is for Israel to participate in diplomatic relations with countries who block, leave, and refuse them.Later that week Saudi Judo competitor Joud Fahmy avoided competing against Israeli Gili Cohen by forfeiting her first round with Christianne Legentil from Mauritius. Saudi Arabia has softened their relationship with Israel since the Iran deal took effect, yet they still deny the existence of Israel.
Then Egyptian Judoka fighter, Islam El Shehaby, publically refused to shake hands after he lost to Israeli Or Sasson. El Shehaby was booed by the crowd for his lack of sportsmanship. The Egyptians missed opportunity to show the “spirit of friendship” is an incident that’s being looked into by the Olympic committee.
These acts of discrimination display to the world on a small scale politically what Israel faces daily from certain Middle East neighbors. In every act of bigotry, the Israeli competitor or team was willing to engage in the mission of the Olympics, to overlook the major differences their countries have and to show a spirit of friendship to their Middle East neighbors and their desire for peace in the Middle East to the whole world.
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These images of blocking, absence, and refusal are diplomacy issues Israel has to engage with regularly. If these individuals are too immature to practice simple sportsmanlike conduct, just think of how difficult it is for Israel to participate in diplomatic relations with countries who block, leave, and refuse them.