‘Olympic Spirit’. There is one thing about the Games that makes it different from other athletic events … it is a neutral venue in which people can set aside their hostilities and compete.
In ancient Greece, the desire to compete in the Games was so sacred to the participants that they literally delayed preparations for putting together an army to repel the invasion of the Persian Empire until after the games were finished. (Remember the Spartans in the film ‘300’? Yeah … that army.)
The Olympics have come to be an event where even countries with a complex history of regional strife could face each other in best-on-best competition.
It’s a noble ideal. But not everyone has bought into that noble ideal. Even some athletes when faced with a choice to pursue excellence in their sport, or nurse old hatreds will still choose to throw their training and sacrifice out the window rather than swallow their pride and accept an old enemy as an equal.
A second judo fighter has quit the Tokyo Olympics rather than face an Israeli opponent.
Mohamed Abdalrasool, 28, of Sudan, was a no-show for his fight against 27-year-old Tohar Butbul in the 73kg class on Monday morning.
It comes after Fethi Nourine of Algeria quit the contest last week because he might have had to fight Butbul, saying he was protesting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Abdalrasool, ranked 469th in the world, has not given a reason for withdrawing from the fight, having shown up for the weigh-in earlier in the day.
…But the 30-year-old Algerian and his coach Amar Benikhlef announced their decision to withdraw from the contest on Thursday rather than risk facing an Israeli opponent.
Nourine later told Algerian TV that he didn’t want to ‘get his hands dirty’ and that withdrawing was the ‘right thing to do.’
‘We have worked hard to qualify for the Games, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all that,’ he said.
‘My position is consistent on the Palestinian issue, and I reject normalisation, and if it cost me that absence from the Olympic Games, God will compensate.’ —DailyMail
He can defend his poor sportsmanship as being ‘in defense of Palestine’ all he wants. But there is a long history of athletes who have taken a position (not unlike Rashida Tlaib) of refusing to admit the state of Israel has any right to exist at all.
If the political left were a little more self-aware and a little less arrogant, they could take a lesson from how injecting this kind of politics cheapens the spirit of athletic events.
But, like Nourine, they are far more interested in using a public stage to push a political agenda than they are in displaying old-fashioned ‘good sportsmanship’.
Then again, some guy ranked 469th in the world in a lesser-known sport wasn’t going to be a household name anytime soon. That seems to be a recurring theme, doesn’t it? Isn’t it precious how many out-of-contention athletes find a way to make a name for themselves even when their sport has passed them by?
Sometimes they’re a third-place shot-putter, at other times, a washed-up QB taking the knee. But let someone criticize China’s crackdown on Hong Kong and all these courageous contenders lose their voices.
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by Doug Giles
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