Iran says Olympians will compete against Israelis
In surprising move, Islamic Republic said it will allow its athletes to compete with Israeli counterparts during the London Games.
Bahram Afsharzadeh, head of the Iranian Olympic Mission, said Monday that his country’s athletes will compete against Israelis at the London Games.
Iran has been criticized in the past because some of its athletes withdrew from events against Israelis at the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games.
Afsharzadeh said: “We will be truthful to sport.”
Afsharzadeh also said that Iran would “respect” a minute of silence if it was held in the opening ceremony to remember the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
The IOC, though, has rebuffed Israel’s plea for the commemoration.
Afsharzadeh spoke in the athletes’ village after signing the “truce wall,” an initiative calling on warring parties around the world to end hostilities during the games.
The statement was made on the backdrop of concerns raised by some Arab states that the meets’ lottery may pit their athletes against Israeli competitors or worse – that their representatives will have to stand next to Israelis on the podium if they win a medal.
Arab nations traditionally refuse to compete with Isreali athletes.
In the 2004 Athens Games, Israeli judoka Udi Wax was slated to compete against then Iranian world champion Arash Mirasmaeili, but the latter initially refused to play as a demonstration of “solidarity with Palestinian suffering.”
Mirasmaeili did show up on the morning of the match, but did not make weight, “disqualifying” himself from the competition while saving himself from allegations of poor sportsmanship.
In 2006, Iran withdrew from the World Judo Championships to avoid a match with Israel. In 2007, Iranian referee Ahmed Kaspandi declined to referee a match in which an Israeli player was participating, and was removed from duty.