While Iran’s actions are outrageous, Israel’s response is measured.ATHENS – While Iran calls for hatred, Israel asks for sport.
While Iran uses its athletes as pawns, Israel treats the Iranians like athletes.
Iran yanked judo star Arash Miresmaeli from Olympic competition because he was scheduled to face Israel’s Ehud Vaks. The official reason was that Miresmaeli failed to make weight, but nobody is fooled. Iran’s official news agency quoted the country’s president, Mohammad Khatami, as saying this would be “recorded in the history of Iranian glories.” That’s not because Miresmaeli ate too many Big Macs.
While Iran’s actions are outrageous, Israel’s response is measured.
“I don’t believe that any measure will be taken against the Iranians during these Games, but a process should start,” said Efraim Zinger, director of the Israeli Olympic Committee. “Hopefully by the next Olympic Games, it will be part of international sport: Each athlete has to sign an eligibility code.”
Zinger is right. This must be done. But not after the Olympics, when the International Olympic Committee disappears for its big money-counting seminar.
It must be done by the end of the week. Draft a code, and make everybody sign it.
Because next Monday, it will come up again.
That’s when the draw will be determined for wrestlers in the 185-pound and 265-pound weight classes. Israel and Iran each have two wrestlers in each class. There are six pools for each class, and you must face everybody in your pool.
So there is a 1-in-3 chance that an Israeli and Iranian will end up in the same pool in one of the classes. Of course, that means there is a 2-in-3 chance they won’t face each other, but does the IOC really want to take the chance of going through this again? Iranian wrestlers have a history of avoiding Israelis in small-scale meets around the world.
The International Judo Federation scheduled an emergency meeting Monday to discuss this. But the federation only covers judo. Ultimately, this will come down to the IOC.
“I think they should get a kind of punishment, sanctions because of their misbehavior,” Zinger said of the Iranian Olympic Committee. “I try to remain realistic. What’s more important … it’s not the punishment, but let’s call it the education. Today it’s Israel. Tomorrow it will be the United States. Three years from now it will be any other country.”
Start with a code that everybody must compete, regardless of the opponent. Make everybody sign it. (The rest of the world would sign it without flinching.) And if the Iranians refuse to sign it, kick them out of the Games.
Unfortunately, their athletes have no choice.
“The instruction came directly from Tehran,” Zinger said. “That was the kind of an offer that you cannot say no. You have to choose between maybe becoming an Olympic hero and then looking for refuge in one of the European countries or maybe in Canada, or go back home. I don’t blame the athletes. I feel sorry for the athletes.”
You might say that countries have differences, and they can do as they please. Of course they have differences. That’s the whole point. That’s the appeal of the Olympic Games – for two weeks, everybody shuts up and gets along.
If you only want to compete against somebody with the exact same belief system as yours, stay home.
Understand something here, OK? This seems like a dispute between Iran and Israel, but it isn’t. It’s a dispute between Iran and the other 201 countries at these Olympics. They are all here for fair competition; Iran is the one that wants to sabotage it.
“It’s not an Israeli issue,” Zinger said. “I don’t think of it as an Israeli issue. It’s an international issue. Today it is Israel, but tomorrow it could be you.”
The IOC is not supposed to jump into political disputes, but it has no choice. By refusing to face Israel in judo, Iran sparked a much larger fight, and the IOC must referee. Iran wants to inflict its own extremist agenda on the world. Israel wants the Olympics. Pick one.
(Reprinted with permission from the Detroit Free Press)