Conflict Reaches the Olympics


This past summer the 2012 Olympics forced some face to face interaction between Israeli and Lebanese athletes. Events were running on schedule but when Judokas athletes had the practice floor things did not run so smoothly.

The Lebanese and Israeli Judo team had to share the practice floor.  The Lebanese team refused to practice next to the Israelis and requested a change be made. In accommodation, Olympic staff members improvised with a temporary wall to serve as a barrier between the two teams. No further interaction was made between the competing athletes. 

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On a similar note, Olympic athlete Javad Mahjoub, of Iran backed out of the Judoka competition with an inadequate excuse. The reason, he was in a bracket that allowed for the possibility to be matched up against and Israeli. To an outsider this seems extreme, and almost unthinkable to give up a spot for a chance to compete in the Olympics. However, including the Olympics and other leagues it is common for Middle Easterners to refuse competition against Israelis.  Due to this regional problem, Israel usually competes in European leagues.

The International Committee President of the Olympics, Jaques Rogge, responded by stating that athletes who deny competition based on political reasons will be looked upon closely. Jaques Rogge released a statement stating that they will ask for explanation from the withdrawal and subject the athlete to medical examination. If they are thought to be motivated by a political boycott, sanctions will be taken. In the end, the Iranian athlete did not compete and the facts of if he was medically not fit for the competition or if he dropped out for political reasons was not released, thought his motives seem very clear following the rest of the regional refusal of Israel.

This example of boycotting Israel shows just how far the dispute between the two countries reaches. Do you think sportsmanship should overrule this type of rejection? Was it right for the Olympic staff to put up the barrier?  Do you think this boycott is beneficial for either of the countries?

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7 thoughts on “Conflict Reaches the Olympics

  1. I believe that putting up the barrier was the least thing that should be done. We believe that being with Israelis in the same place means that we are normalizing Israel. The Lebanese people, and many other Arabs from different countries refuse to normalize Israel for many reasons, we simply refuse to abandon the Palestinian cause and forget all the crimes and violations “Israel” has been committing since it has been established!

    1. Do the Lebanese people commit to only one solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – the destruction of Israel? I think that this approach is extremely impractical for the current political landscape. The United States and many European nations would never allow for the annihilation of Israel.

      Therefore, the people of the region should work within the current political climate to solve the problems. Conflict is going to have to solved through diplomatic channels and through discussion. By refusing to train with the Israelis, the Lebanese athletes perpetuated the culture of refusing to communicate with the Israeli people. This mind set will never be able to solve the current problems.

  2. I really don’t blame the Lebanese Judokas’ refusal to train with the Israelis. We can’t just turn off our sense of justice just because we’re engaged in a sporting event.

    1. I believe that when participating in the Olympics, which are meant to be a time of peace and bring people together, people can make a sincere effort to put differences aside. For it is that reason the Olympics are held. Who knows maybe the Israeli Judo team is composed of some good people?

      1. Nothing will bring Lebanese and Israelis together, it’s not about sports, music or hummus, its about thousands of Lebanese who were killed, we can’t forget them. Me as a Lebanese I refuse any kind of peace with people who destroyed our land and killed hundreds or thousands of innocent lives.

  3. I think issues like this have been taken to the extreme. This seems ridiculous that two teams refuse to practice or compete against each other because of political/religious conflict. I personally would never give up such an amazing opportunity to compete in the Olympics. You would think that someone could set aside all these conflicts for a few weeks to compete in the Olympics. They were not saying be friends or forgive each other it is simply just a competition between countries around the world and should be an honor to compete in. If anything I would try harder to win against a team that I have such strong feelings against to represent my country the best I could.

  4. This was a very interesting topic, I am actually surprised that there have not been more issues like this during the olympics. With so many different countries coming together for the event it almost seems like a fantasy to think that there would not be any problems. I think it is just for the two countries to refuse to compete against one another. Why would they turn off their their nationalistic pride for a sporting event?

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