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Monday, August 16, 2010

Iran pulls out of taekwondo final with Israel

The Daily Telegraph described this best:

Politics and sport don't mix, right? The Olympics are all about fair play, and of course young athletes are in Singapore to learn more about the Olympic ideals.

All of that was blown away by an ugly situation at the taekwondo competition on the opening night of the Youth Olympic Games. The Iranian competitor Mohammad Soleimani withdrew from the gold medal bout against his Israeli opponent Gili Haimovitz ostensibly because of an ankle injury.

Iranian team officials then announced he would not attend the presentation ceremony to collect his silver medal as he was enroute to hospital. Israeli officials, however, believe that Soleimani was forced to withdraw because Iran refuses to recognise the state of Israel.

The International Olympic Committee was suitably perturbed to order an immediate investigation, headed by its medical expert Dr Patrick Schamasch.

What is particularly angering the suited heavwyweights of sport that have gathered in Singapore - and everyone is here, all 204 National Olympic Committees, more than 100 IOC members and the heads of the international sporting federations - is that this competition was centred squarely around the promotion of the lofty, often estoteric values of Olympism to the youth of the world.

''If the injury is not genuine is horrifying enough, but to use a minor in this way is the real crime,'' noted one IOC member as he walked the lobby of the Ritz Carlton.

But of course Soleimani will go home a hero, his sore foot a mere distraction and the Iranian officials safe enough in their jobs for another year.
The forfeit was not covered by any Iranian press, as far as I can tell.