The 2016 Rio Olympics motto is “A New World,” intended to convey sports’ transformational power, promote respect and unity, break down barriers and “create a better world,” explained Olympic Brand Director Beth Lula. “It is what the Olympic movement is all about,” echoes Thomas Bach, current president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
When it comes to the Lebanese, Palestinian, Saudi and Egyptian delegations, something is lost in translation.
It seems the 10-member Lebanese team physically prevented the Israeli delegation from boarding the bus to Maracana Stadium for the opening ceremony – the bus they were assigned to share. The IOC acquiesced to the Lebanese and provided a different bus to transport the Israelis. Israeli Olympian sailor Udi Gal posted on Facebook, “Isn’t this the opposite of what the Olympics represent?” Not according to the Lebanese government, which praised its delegation’s behavior as “principled and patriotic.” The Arab press explained that “the Israelis were sent away from the bus because normalization (with Israel) is not to be had in any form.”
Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash complained to the press that she couldn’t prepare for the Games due to the “Israeli occupation.” She insisted there’s no Olympic-size swimming pool available to her and she was forced to practice in a half-length pool. “Because of all the difficulties that Palestinians live under… it makes it harder to practice and compete in our sports,” said al-Atrash.
Her claim of being uniquely disadvantaged as a Palestinian because of the conflict with Israel holds no water. It’s not uncommon for Olympic swimmers, including in the U.S., to train in half-size (25m) pools like the one al-Atrash used in her hometown. A 50m Olympic pool is available in Gaza and Israel said it would have approved her practicing in Jerusalem. She never asked. The Palestinian Olympics Committee told the Jerusalem Post that it’s breaking ground for a 50m pool in the near future.
In their eagerness to single out and defame Israel, Reuters and other international news organizations failed to tell the whole story and were all too willing to promote the false narrative of evil Israeli occupier and innocent Palestinian victimhood.
In the judo competition, Saudi Joud Fahmy forfeited her first-round judo match to avoid facing Israeli fighter Gili Cohen and Egyptian Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of Or Sasoon after his first-round loss to the Israeli. Both earned black belts in Olympic sportsmanship.
Even Facebook piled on, placing Israel last in its Profile Frames alphabetical listing of countries competing at the Games.
The Olympic snubbing of Israel is not unique to Rio.
In 2004 and 2008, Iranian Olympians, adhering to government policy, refused to compete against “athletes of the Zionist regime.” Syrian swimmers withdrew from competition to avoid any contact with Israelis.
Israeli Arik Ze’evi beat Egyptian Ramadan Darwish in qualifying competition for the 2012 Olympics. Darwish refused to shake the Israeli’s hand, setting a precedent for 2016.
The official website of the 2012 London Olympics omitted Israel’s capital and listed Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine.” Iranian judo champion Javad Mahjoub withdrew from competition, unwilling to face an Israeli competitor. The Lebanese judo team insisted that the IOC erect a barrier at the practice facility so that Arabs would not have to look at Israelis.
There is no outrage when incidents are perpetrated against Israel. The IOC has done little beyond warning the boycotters and has imposed no penalties for the racist actions of teams or individual athletes.
The effort by Arabs, Iranians, and their Western fellow travelers to segregate and delegitimize Israel is commonplace and acceptable within major international organizations. The cries of “Zionism equals racism” have never been louder, but when Israelis are the targets of racism, those actions are trivialized and ignored.
What nation other than Israel would have had to wait 44 years to have the Olympics finally publicly acknowledge and honor its 11 Olympians slaughtered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics?
NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg dubs the separation and isolation of Israelis “petty apartheid” and compares it to “the refusal to allow blacks in South Africa before 1994, or in the US before the civil rights movement, to sit with whites on buses or drink from the same water fountains.”
It didn’t take the 2016 Olympics to demonstrate racism against Israelis. Anti-Semitism is a universal sport.