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August 16, 2004
The Real World Intrudes Into The Olympic Respite

The Olympics have long been a venue where the stated goals are "tolerance, solidarity, peace and friendship," but at the same time, also have a long history of member nations playing politics with its athletes and athletes playing politics on their own. Even the IOC has hardly been blameless as an organization in this regard, combining grubby graft (uncovered in the Salt Lake games) with overarching and ostentatious snobbery (their refusal to allow professional athletes to compete for decades).

In Athens, the Iranians took their turn at injecting politics into sport by having their star judo champion refuse to take a bout with an Israeli challenger:

Iran's Arash Miresmaeili has been eliminated after failing to make the correct weight at the Athens Olympics. But there is confusion over the affair, following the judo star's reported threat to walk out in protest when he was drawn against an Israeli opponent.

Iran has a strict policy of sanctions against Israel and forbids any contact with Israeli citizens. Iran's President Mohammad Khatami has said Miresmaeili's act will be recorded among the nation's glories.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) said: "We're very surprised an elite player could not make his weight."

It added: "At the moment we have someone who is representing his country and did not make the weight. We have to know more about it."

I have not followed any of the Athens games so far, for a couple of reasons. One, I am not particularly interested, and two, I'm far too busy with other things. However, this story makes me laugh out of the sheer stupidity of the Iranians -- and of those surprised by the Iranians. Did anyone really think that they would do anything different? After all, they spend millions of dollars every year funding terrorist groups who kill Israelis as their primary mission.

But the foolish naivete by others hardly even stacks up to the stupidity of the Iranians, who should know full well that the Olympics would view such a display with little sympathy. Did Khatami expect the IOC to make arrangements so that they never had to expose Iranian "purity" to Israeli "corruption"? The only achievement that the Iranians accomplished is to disqualify one of the only medal hopes they have at this Olympiad, and to do so in such a manner as to underscore the extreme and anti-Semitic nature of their regime. All they've proved is that Iranians are still far too immature to be allowed on the playground.

Besides, if they really didn't like Israelis, wouldn't judo have been the perfect sport in which to meet them? The contact in that sport would be much less intimate than in the other sport in which the Iranians expect to be competitive: wrestling. Guess what sport the Israelis also expect to compete? It's going to be a very short Olympiad for Khatami's crew.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 16, 2004 5:16 AM

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