August 16, 2004

Although I have trained for months and am in shape I refused to face my Israeli rival in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinian people ... I am not upset about the decision I have made.

- Arash Miresmaeili, as quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)

From Tehran
From Israel

Is there such a thing as a neutral, where the Middle East is concerned?

A flagbearer for his nation, a world champion in his event and with high hopes for the gold medal, somehow manages to get himself disqualified from his event under circumstances in which such qualification carries rather more suspicious overtones than the usual drug scandal. On the surface, it would seem he just weighed in significantly over the class weight limit: but this in itself is apparently something extremely unusual for a senior judoka, who would have been on a special diet to optimise muscle mass for the past several months leading up to the competition.

It so happens that his first opponent would have been Israeli.

To my knowledge, Miresmaeili has made no other statements besides the one to his own country's official news service. While there is no particular reason why he should, it does leave all first-hand apperception of his choice to be filtred through a source that most definitely does have a vested interest.

Those were the major Olympic Games for politics entangling with sport in the (post) WWII era, but I cannot think of a single modern Olympics where politics was entirely absent. Then again, even the Greek nations of the ancient Olympics were unsuccessful in keeping politics out of sport. Why should the modern day be any different?

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