As a former elite athlete, I have always loved the Olympics. In fact, being an Olympian used to be my life goal. Nothing was more inspiring than the dedication, the passion, the struggle, and the overall spirit of Olympians. I used to admire the Olympics because of the idea that we can overcome tremendous obstacles, both individually and between nations, in order to achieve incredible things.
But unfortunately that has all changed with the London 2012 games. I’ve never been as disappointed as I am today with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and I can’t imagine they have a rational justification for their hypocrisy against the state of Israel.
First, to put things in context, there is the fact that Greek Olympian Voula Papahristou was banned from participating in the Olympics because of her disparaging remarks on Twitter about Africans. Papahristou was kicked off the Greek Olympic team by the Hellenic Delegations’ Administration Board, not the IOC, but she was suspended because her comments violated the IOC’s description of appropriate social media conduct. The IOC states that, “postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter…” But if the IOC is concerned about preserving the “Olympic spirit,” how do they justify their recent dealings with Israel?
There’s the IOC’s decision to reject a moment of silence for the 11 Munich victims who were brutally killed 40 years ago at the 1972 Olympic Games. IOC President Jacques Rogge denied several requests from the athletes’ families to hold a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies of the London games because he “had to,” a decision that resulted in a public thank you letter from the Palestinian Authority. The IOC did hold an impromptu moment of silence in the athletes’ village, but why was this not important enough to have a moment of silence during the opening ceremony, during which they actually had a tribute to victims of terrorism? Wouldn’t it have seemed only right to commemorate those whose lives were actually taken by terrorists during an Olympiad?
And then we have the statements from Iran that they would not compete against Israelis. Despite initial reports that they would, Iran later made it clear that their athletes would “be sick” should they be forced to compete against Israel (a tactic they’ve used before). In fact, they referred to the initial report that they would compete against Israelis as “Zionist distortions.” Although refusing to compete against a country is grounds for banning participation in the Olympics, apparently “faking sick” is perfectly acceptable to the IOC.
Next, there is the fact that Olympic organizers allowed the Lebanese Judo team to erect a barrier so as to not see the Israeli team practicing. Last Friday, the two judo teams were scheduled to share a gym for training, but chas v’shalom the Lebanese share the mat with Israelis. But this is all in the “Olympic spirit,” right?
Sadly, that is the IOC’s perspective. The organization is concerned about personal social media accounts being aligned with the “Olympic spirit” and the “fundamental principles of Olympism” – but commemorating the greatest tragedy to ever occur at the Olympics, or allowing a national team to disrespect another team by refusing to practice with (or even look at) them, or allowing another national team to state they will not compete against another team out of pure hatred – all perfectly acceptable.
Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for all this, but indications are that the IOC is guilty of an unsettling bias against Israel. It’s a shame that an organization that stands for such lofty ideals – an organization that had such a profound impact on my life – appears to have sunk to this level.