Iranian Athletes Say They Will Compete against Israelis
Iranian athletes have vowed to uphold the Olympics principles and not boycott competition with Israelis, despite having done so so in the past.
Despite past boycotts, Iranian Olympics official Bahram Afsharzadeh insisted this week that the country’s athletes will be "faithful to sport” and not walk on competitions involving Israelis.
He said Iranian athletes have signed a pledge, backed by the United Nations, to leave hostilities outside of the Games.
Similar statements were made by athletes from the Islamic Republic before a swimming competition in the 2008 Beijing Games, when an Iranian swimmer dropped out of a race in which an Israeli was to compete, allegedly due to illness. He said he suddenly felt sick, possibly at the idea of having to swim in the same pool as a Jew.
In 2004, an Iranian judo athlete refused to fight an Israeli in the 2004 Olympics,
Iranian athletes also walked out on Israel in the 2010 Youth Olympics. Taekwondo winner Gili Haimovitz, 17, won gold by default after his Iranian opponent in the finals, Mohammed Soleimani, withdrew from the match. Iranian officials claimed that Soleimani had been injured and was so ill that he could not even stand on the podium with Haimovitz for the awards ceremony.
Israel accused the Iranian team of withdrawing for political reasons.
This time around, Iran’s Olympic official even said the athletes would "respect" a minute of silence if it were held at the opening ceremony to remember the 11 Israeli athletes assassinated in the Munich Games Massacre 40 year ago. However, his statement was made after the International Olympics Committee turned down the plea for the minute of silence.