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Lebanese Olympians Refuse to Train on Mat with Israelis

Olympic officials erected a screen between Lebanon's and Israel's judo fighters after Lebanese refused to train on same mat as the Israelis.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 7/29/2012, 2:02 PM

Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka fights with Israel's Artiom Arshanski (blue) during their men's -60kg elimin
Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka fights with Israel's Artiom Arshanski (blue) during their men's -60kg elimin
Reuters

Olympic officials were forced to erect a screen between Lebanon's and Israel's judo fighters on Friday after the Lebanese refused to train on the same mat, the Israeli Olympic team said on Friday.

The incident arose after Lebanon's two judokas found themselves next to the five Israelis during practice at the official training venue in Redbridge, in east London, said Nitzan Ferraro, spokesman for the Israeli Olympic Committee.

"We started to practice. They came and they saw us - they didn't like it and they went to the organisers," Feraro told Reuters. "They put up some kind of wall between us. Everyone went on and there was no interaction between us."

The Lebanese Olympic Committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

Organizers of the judo competition said that screens were always available in order to ensure that competing athletes and their coaching staff would not be able to spy on each other's training.

Ferraro said the incident had not been a big deal for them, Reuters reported. 

"It didn't matter for us. We don't mix politics and sport. We had no problem," he said.

Lebanon's Caren Chammas and Israel's Alice Schlesinger will both compete in the women's -63kg category next Tuesday but could only meet in the final, an eventuality organizers believe is highly unlikely.