Israel says judo medals ‘poke in eye’ of Abu Dhabi
Israel’s sports minister said Friday the country’s medal success at an Abu Dhabi judo tournament was a “poke in the eye” of organisers who banned the Israeli flag and national anthem.
Israeli judoka Tal Flicker won a gold medal at the mixed Abu Dhabi Grand Slam on Thursday and teammate Gili Cohen took a bronze.
Israel said organisers in the Gulf state insisted that its 12 competitors not wear “ISR” on their uniforms and that the Israeli anthem not be played if they win.
“The victories of the Israelis at Abu Dhabi are an Israeli poke in Abu Dhabi’s eye,” Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev said according to a statement issued by her office.
Israel won, she said, even if the organisers sought to keep its athletes “hidden in the dark.”
She went on to describe the winners’ rostrum at Abu Dhabi as the “stage of darkness and anxiety which runs contrary to the Olympic sporting spirit.”
There was no immediate comment from the UAE judo federation in Abu Dhabi.
Israel and the UAE do not have diplomatic relations, as is the case with many Arab countries.
Israel’s participation in international competitions has regularly led to hostile reactions and boycotts from Arab or Muslim organisations or athletes.
Last year at the Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was jeered out of the arena in Rio de Janeiro after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent Or Sasson.
Judo is a leading sport in Israel, and Sasson won one of the country’s two bronze medals in Rio.
In 2015 Israel accepted the conditions for that year’s Abu Dhabi tournament, with its judokas wearing uniforms in the colours of the International Judo Federation.
© Agence France-Presse