Since it’s inception in the year 776 B.C., the Olympic Games have served as a unifying medium through which numerous athletes compete for distinction within countless events. Over time, the Games have naturally modernized, resulting in the ceremonial formalities that are customary today. This is evidenced by the grandeur of the opening celebration, and the immense attention given to the trials by mainstream media moguls, such as Kathie Lee and Hoda. Yet, there are instances when the image of harmony portrayed by the Olympic Games is tarnished, specifically by the actions of ill-mannered individuals.
On Friday, August 12th, a fierce competition between two Olympic Judo fighters — Or Sasson of Israel, and Islam El Shehaby of Egypt — began to fester before they even stepped foot on the mat. Contentious political relations between Arabic nations and Israel has resulted in countless forfeits by athletes, spanning years before the match. Despite pressure to forfeit the competition, El Shehaby decided to face his opponent, who is ranked 5th in the world. Competing in the 100 kg weight category, both fighters weighed over 220 lbs., with plenty of experience behind them. Sasson then performed the customary bow mandated by the International Judo Federation.
The gesture was hardly returned.
With a slight nod, deemed by the judges as a narrowly adequate substitution for a formal bow, El Shehaby briefly departed from the floor before eventually returning. With just ninety seconds remaining in the bout, Or Sasson threw his opponent with veteran force, easily securing both a victory and his advancement to the next stage of competition. As the two humble giants rose, the audience expected to see what is ...
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...of equality portrayed by the IOC, what has become clear is the incentive to prevent political conflicts from transcending onto the tournament floor is entirely nonexistent.
In truth, it’s nothing short of intolerable, especially within the modern era.
Although there is truth behind the argument that Arabic countries are making vast improvements in their relations with Israel, immature mannerisms due to regional conflicts have no place on the international stage. Refusing to shake the hand of an opponent, forfeiting a match due to political tension, or locking a team out of a communal bus are all tangible forms of discrimination. Instead of simply letting these incidents occur, the IOC should set immediate precedent against these breaches of conduct; acts that without correction, distort the definition of the Games, and the Olympic’s purpose of facilitating unity.
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