Sun, Oct 31, 2010 | The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Belated Outrage In Iran Over Iranian Athlete Standing On The Medal Podium With An Israeli Athlete
Almost one month after the World Masters Weightlifting Championships held in Poland in September, this week Iranian media gave extensive coverage of the award ceremony, during which the Iranian former world champion Hossein Khodadadi appeared on the podium beside Sergio Britva, the Israeli representative. Britva took the first place and Khodadadi, who won second place, stood beside him on the medal podium while the Israeli national anthem played in the background. He refused, however, to shake the Israeli athlete’s hand.
The story was reported this weekend on the homepage of the ISNA news agency website, and was shortly cited by several major news websites and dailies. The agency noted that the Iranian athlete’s participation in the award ceremony and his appearance beside “the representative of the artificial regime” was puzzling and contrary to the principles of the Islamic republic. According to the ISNA report, it was the first time since the Islamic revolution that an Iranian representative stood beside an Israeli at an official competition.
The event which took place in early October was in the 105 Kg category for the ages of 35 to 39. Sergio Britva, Israeli weightlifter took the first place lifting 300 kg in total and Hossein Khodadadi, the Iranian weightlifter took the silver medal lifting 296 kg. [Payvand Iran News, Oct 23, 2010]
Mir-Rasoul Ra’isi, the head of the Iranian delegation to the competition in Poland, reacted to the “incident” by saying that the award ceremony took place on the final day of the competition, and that he was not personally present there. He noted that when he received a report about the scheduled ceremony, he informed the Iranian representative in the embassy in Warsaw, who told him that there was no problem with Khodadadi’s participation in the ceremony. Ra’isi noted that if Khodadadi had not taken part in the ceremony, the Iranian delegation would have had to return the medals won during the competition. Hossein Khodadadi, who addressed the incident as well, said he did not want to step on the podium and stand next to the Israeli representative. However, he was informed that if he did not take part in the medal ceremony, not only would the Iranian delegation have to return the medals won during the competition, but it would be disqualified from further competitions. He stressed that the head of the Iranian delegation authorized him to attend the ceremony, and that he refused to shake the outstretched hand of the Israeli representative. He said that even if he had not stepped up on the pedestal, the Iranian flag would still have been raised next to the flag of the “Zionist regime”. Khodadadi added that he dressed in casual clothing and flip-flops to lend his participation in the ceremony an unofficial character, and that upon his return to Iran he submitted a written report about the incident to the security department of the Physical Education Organization (ISNA, October 22).
The reformist daily Mardom Salari dedicated its editorial to the incident, wondering why it took a whole month to uncover and deal with the affair. The editorial said that all those responsible for the issue—from the Foreign Ministry and the Physical Education Organization to the team coach—must provide answers. The daily strongly criticized the head of Iran’s Weightlifting Association for taking no action about the issue until it was exposed on the media (Mardom Salari, October 23).
It should be noted that last month, Ali Sa’idlou, the head of the Physical Education Organization, sent a letter to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, asking for instructions on the participation of Iranian athletes in competitions against Israeli athletes. The letter was sent after Iranian wrestler Taleb Ne’matpour was forced to withdraw from the World Wrestling Championship in Moscow when he was drawn against an Israeli opponent. The head of the Iranian Wrestling Federation said that, following his withdrawal, Iran had lost a definite chance to win a medal. After the letter was sent, major Iranian sports personalities once again stressed their support for Iran’s official policy, forbidding its athletes from taking part in official competitions against Israeli athletes.
Iranian athletic community has become more and more concerned about political restrictions costing them medals in competitions.
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