Sporting fans across the world are shocked after Egypt’s judoka Islam El Shehaby has declined to shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson, after losing during the men’s over 100 kg judo competition at the 2016 Olympics.
El Shehaby had faced continuous pressure from back home, after the host of an Islamist-leaning TV network had asked him to pull out of the match entirely. But the game took place, mainly after even Egypt’s minister for youth and sports intervened, making an appeal to athletes to accept competition with everyone, “regardless of anything”.
In a major breach of judo etiquette, El Shehaby refused to shake Sasson’s hand after the match. According to custom, judo players typically bow or shake hands, as a sign of respect in the Japanese martial art. Shehaby was booed copiously by the crowd.
It’s not the first time Israeli athletes are facing extreme hostility from Muslims at the Olympic Games in Rio. Even before the official opening ceremony of the Games, the Lebanese team obstructed their Israeli counterparts to board the shuttle bus which was supposed to deliver them to the Olympic Stadium din Rio. The Lebanese delegation head told the media it was all a misunderstanding.
“I asked the bus driver to close the door but the guide with the Israeli team prevented him from doing so,” Nakoula told An-Nahar. “I then stood at the door of the bus to prevent the Israel team from entering and some of them tried to go in and pick up a fight,” said Lebanese delegation head Salim al-Haj Nakoula, for a Lebanese newspaper.
In a phone statement to Associated Press, the official had a more toned down reaction: it was “only a small problem. We are here for sports”, Nakoula concluded.
The International Olympic Committee warned the Lebanese official that such behaviour will not be tolerated in the future, and the Anti-Defamation League was among other organisations who issued statements regarding hostilities toward Israeli athletes at the Olympics.