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Four Reasons the Olympics Were Unfriendly to Israel During Opening Weekend

The 2016 Israeli Olympic Team marches in during the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. (Credit: AP/Matt Slocum)

By Tevy Pilc
Staff Writer/Researcher
B’nai Brith Canada

It’s that time every two years where the entire world comes in harmony to participate in good-natured athletic competition. It’s the Olympics – where nations put aside petty conflicts with one another and “celebrate humanity.”

And then of course, there’s Israel. The exception.

That exception was on display this opening weekend at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, a simple Google News search using the keywords Israel + olympics (as of Monday August 8) will provide you with the blatant displays of anti-Israel activity.

To break it down for you, here are four reasons why the Olympics were unfriendly to Israel during opening weekend

Lebanese team refuses to ride the bus with Israel

You might have heard about this one: The Israeli delegation of athletes and coaches try to board a bus heading to the stadium for the opening ceremony. On that bus was the Lebanese team. Under the impression that each country was supposed to have its own bus, they refused to share space with the Israeli delegation. The Lebanese went so far to stop the Israelis from joining them that they not only told the driver to shut the door but when that failed the head of the team physically blocked the entrance to the bus.

Israeli sailing coach Udi Gal first described the incident in a Facebook post.

“2016 Olympics…shame on you… The Israeli delegation was preparing to board a bus to the opening ceremony, which was to be shared with the Lebanese delegation. The Lebanese, upon comprehending that they were to share a bus with the Israelis, addressed the driver in refusal and demanded that the door to the bus be shut. Event organizers then attempted to scatter us on different buses – something that is unacceptable for security and representative reasons.”

Event organizers eventually arranged a separate bus for the Israeli team but the damage had already been done.

The Palestinian swimmer who claimed (falsely) she was denied access to an Olympic-sized swimming pool because of Israel

A story that gained heavy media coverage, Palestinian swimmer, Mary al-Atrash, claimed that she wasn’t able to properly train because she had no access to an Olympic-size swimming pool in Gaza or the West Bank and that she denied the ability to use one in Israel.

Guess what? False and False.

As reported by Tablet Magazine, the Israeli government office for coordinating activities in the West Bank (COGAT) issued a statement saying it it would have offer her accommodations (page does not exist) – had she actually ask for them in the first place.

And Olympic-sized pools do in fact exist in Gaza as well as in the West Bank.

But the Olympics are about overcoming obstacles and everyone loves a ‘beating the odds’ story.

Thanks, Pallywood.

The Saudi Arabian judo participant who forfeited her first round match to avoid a potential second match versus an Israeli opponent

We’ve heard this story before: A country refuses to face Israel in competition. Why? Because it’s Israel.

This time the worthy honour of refusing to compete against Israel was Joud Fahmy, a Saudia Arabian judoka. She was scheduled to fight a first-round match against a fighter from Mauritius, but pulled out claiming she was injured. Coincidentally, Fahmy would’ve potentially faced off against Israeli fighter Gili Cohen if both advanced to the second round. According to Channel 2 News, this is exactly why dropped out of the competition.

Facebook places Israel in last on it’s list of competing countries – and without its flag too.

The following occurred on a Facebook feature called Profile Frames, (page does not exist) which allows users to add a flag and the Rio 2016 in their profile photo. The Israel option can be found right at the bottom of the list after Zimbabwe, which is the last country alphabetically on the list. Also absent is the Israeli flag in the option. Instead is the flag of the Israeli Olympic Committee.

You could arguably chalk this up as human error – particularly regarding the flag folly because along with countries such as the US and Canada, Israel is represented by it’s Olympic committee logo and not the country flag. The Israel Olympic Committee contacted Facebook about the issues after receiving multiple complaints and was soon thereafter fixed accordingly.

But you know what? Things at the Olympics could be worse.

On a lighter note, this happened:

For those who know their Jewish music, that’s the well known song כל העולם כלו (pronounced: Kol Ha’Olam Kulo) playing over the speakers at the gymnastics venue. The song, which discusses the world being a narrow bridge and the main thing to remember is to have no fear at all (the literal translation), is arguably known by every single Israeli.

(Hat tip to my mom for hearing it while watching the event.)