Iranian athletes will compete against Israelis at the London Olympics, according to the country's chef de mission.From the text of the interview, he did not mention Israel by name.
Iran has been criticized in the past because some of its athletes withdrew from events against Israelis at the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games.
"We will be truthful to sport," said Bahram Afsharzadeh, who is also the secretary general of the Iranian Olympic committee said.
Afsharzadeh, who was at times speaking through a translator, also said his team had no plans to boycott events because of the nationality of opponents.
"We just follow the sportsmanship and play every country," Afsharzadeh said.
This is in huge contrast to what Iran's official news agency reported last month:
IRI sports minister said here Friday Iranian athletes will just as always refrain from competing against Zionist regime’s representatives if in drawing lots they would have to do so, as Iranians do not recognize legitimacy of forged Zionist regime.Then, after world media blared this news, Iran's official news agency denied it. From YNet:
Islamic Republic of Iran Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Mohammad Abbasi made the comment on the sideline of attending a practice session of the Iranian National Wrestling Teams in an interview with an IRNA Sports Desk reporter.
He added in response to IRNA, “Not competing with the Zionist athletes is one of the values and prides of the Iranian athletes and nation.”
On possibility of deprivation of the Iranian athletes from gaining their deserved medals if they would refrain from competing against Zionist regime representatives, he said, “God willing such a thing will not happen, but if it does we would definitely find a way to solve the problem.”
Iranian media on Tuesday denied a report quoting the head of the Iranian Olympic Mission as saying that Iranian athletes will compete against Israelis at the London Games.
"In a satanic step, Zionist media published the words of the head of Iran's Olympic Mission who announced that the Iranian athletes will compete against the Zionist regime's representatives at the Olympics," a Fars news agency report said. The report was quoted by other Iranian media outlets.
Fars claimed the Bahram Afsharzadeh's words were taken out of context. "He said nothing on the matter and did not name Israel," Fars said.
This interview with Israel's Olympics head is the most likely scenario:
The head of Israel’s Olympic committee said Tuesday he didn’t believe the Iranian delegation’s claim that its athletes will play against Israelis during the Games.But there is another reason why Iran can pretend to be sportsmanlike in English: it is highly unlikely that any Iranian athlete will directly compete against any Israeli:
Zvi Warshaviak told reporters before boarding a plane to London that athletes from certain countries would fake being sick to get out of competing against Israelis. When game time comes, he said, “someone will have an upset stomach.”
There’s a difference between Iran saying it would face Israeli athletes and actually doing so, Warshaviak stated. “I imagine it won’t happen.”
IOC officials had in the past threatened to send home any player who refused to compete because of political reasons.
Athletes from Iran and a number of other countries have refused in the past to compete against Israeli athletes, faking sickness or forfeiting matches for political reasons.
At the London Games there is a slim chance of Iranian athletes meeting Israeli ones. Unlike previous Olympics, the two countries have no judokas in the same weight category, and none of the swimmers race in the same heat.
The field that might pitch a representative of the Jewish state against one from the Islamic republic is the 400-meter dash, and that would happen only if both sprinters compete in the same qualifying round, or if both advance to the next round.
There actually was one additional Iranian athlete that had a chance to compete against an Israeli - but you know how easy it is for athletes in top physical condition to get critically ill a week before the Games:
Despite an Iranian assertion on Monday that its athletes would compete against Israeli ones at the 2012 Games, just hours earlier the Iranian team departed for London, leaving behind the lone athlete who had the possibility of facing an Israeli opponent.We all know how dangerous it is to travel while on antibiotics, right? Every athlete who trained for years to get to the Olympics would just shrug and say, "oh, well."
On Sunday authorities had announced that that athlete, Javad Mahjoob, a judo champion, is suffering from a “critical digestive system infection,” forcing him to take antibiotics and not travel to the Games, which begin on Friday.
Mahjoob’s absence has led to speculation that Iran is maintaining its long-standing policy of not allowing its athletes to compete with Israeli opponents.If any country wants to better their chances to win a medal that has an Iranian favorite, they just need to contribute to Israel's Olympic Committee to ensure that an Israeli athlete will compete in the same category.
Mahjoob himself has acknowledged going to great lengths to keep from squaring off against an Israeli. In a 2011 interview with the Iranian newspaper Shargh, Mahjoob admitted to throwing a match against a German opponent, saying that, “If I won I would have had to compete with an Israeli athlete. And if I refused to compete with the Israeli, they would have suspended our Judo federation for 4 years.”
Israel’s judoka in the 100-kilogram weight class, Ariel “Arik” Ze’evi, will be competing in his fourth Olympic Games. The 35-year-old won a bronze medal at the 2004 Games in Athens, and is widely considered to hold one of Israel’s best chances of taking home a medal in London.
One thing is certain: the IOC will do nothing to penalize Iran for this farce.