Israel has had a bittersweet relationship with the Olympics.
While the young country has won a total of nine medals over the years, it has also suffered great loss at the Games. The horrors of Munich in 1972 act as a reminder that the Olympic Games often become a proxy for retaliation and the bitter settling of international scores.
However, when Israel headed to the Olympics in Rio this year, it brought the largest delegation of athletes in its nation’s history.
47 athletes in 17 different sports, a record for a country approximately the size of New Jersey.
However, before the Israeli team even landed in Rio, other countries were already showing extreme disrespect to the Jewish State in pre-Olympic events — and the team has experienced several altercations since then:
- Kuwait denied an Israeli official their visa for an Olympic qualifying event.
In October of 2015, Kuwait held the Asian Shooting Championship. An Israel delegate was supposed to be part of the competition, an Olympic qualifying event, but was denied entry into the Gulf state.
As a result, the Olympic Committee revoked Kuwait’s qualifying status for the Rio Games. The Committee said Kuwait’s actions were against the non-discrimination policy of the Olympic Charter, according to Reuters.
- A Syrian boxer quit to avoid being in the ring with an Israeli.
Ala Ghasoun is one of Syria’s best boxers. But when it came to a qualifying event for the Rio Olympics, he didn’t want to face off with an Israeli — so he dropped out.
“I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli, and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people.
If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as a athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel.”
- Facebook initially forgot to add Israel to a list of flags for countries you can cheer for in Rio.
A few days before the Olympics kicked off, Facebook offered users a feature to add the flag of their country as their profile pic. While it’s unclear how it happened, Israel was not a choice.
After an appeal from Israel’s Olympic Committee, Facebook added the Israeli flag.
- Saudi judo Olympian forfeited a match in order to not compete against a five-time Israeli champion.
During a preliminary match Joud Fahmy, a Saudi Olympian, decided to forfeit.
According to The Times of Israel, Fahmy dropped out of the match in order to avoid having to fight Gili Cohen, an Israeli and champion judo fighter.
- Team Lebanon refused to share a bus with Israel to go to the Opening Ceremonies.
Team Israel was about to get on their assigned bus to take them to the Opening Ceremonies of the games, when they found the bus doors locked and the other team already on board.
That team was Lebanon, a majority Muslim country that did not wish to share their bus with Israel, even though that was what the Olympic Committee had assigned.
The head of the Lebanese delegation asked the bus driver to shut the door upon learning Israeli athletes were on their way. Before things got physical, though, Israel and Lebanon both boarded separate buses.
Head of the Israeli delegation, Gili Lustig, confirmed the incident and told the AP that “the behavior of the head of the Lebanese delegation contradicts the Olympic Charter.” Lebanon was harshly reprimanded by the IOC.
No matter what your nation or politics, everyone in Rio owes thanks to the State of Israel, because they are a key element in their protection.
Israeli security forces had a key role in training and equipping Brazilian police forces protecting the hundreds of thousands who have traveled to Rio for the games. In fact, Brazil awarded the Israeli defense corporation ISDS a $2.2 billion contract to secure all athletes from every country because they are “the best in the world.”
So there is something we can all cheer about.