In a recent post, I had already wondered how Iran’s government would react to an Iranian chess player losing the world record in simultaneous chess to an Israeli player.
Well, now we know how Iran’s sports administration has handled a similar case: An Iranian weightlifter, Hossein Khodadadi was banned from the sport for life for standing next to an Israeli athlete during the playing of the Israeli national anthem. At the World Masters Weightlifting Championships held in Poland, Mr Khodadadi scored the second place behind Israeli weightlifter Sergio Britva. As the respective silver and gold medal winners (bronze went to Germany) Mr Khodadadi and Mr Britva stood next to each other on the podium.
As you see in the video below [or rather on YouTube because I don’t know how to properly embed a video], Mr Khodadadi was clearly puzzled when the Israeli sportsman reached out his hand to congratulate him. He decided to refuse the handshake, but indicated a brief salute and remained standing for Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah. No blame from my part for Mr Khodadadi personally, who surely knew that he was facing some tough questions upon returning home.
And the questions came indeed: Several Iranian media reported that this was the first time since 1979 that an Iranian athlete had directly competed against an Israeli. Mr Khodadadi had to point out that he had attended the ceremony in civilian attire and with flip-flops instead of the official dress, and that he only did not withdraw himself from the ceremony because otherwise the Iranian team would have forfeited all its medals.
Still, Mr Khodadadi and Mir Rasool Raisi, the head of the Iranian weightlifting team were subsequently banned by the Iranian government from all sport activities for life.
How sad is it that the Iranian regime’s zealous anti-Israel stance goes so far as to deny the basic principles of sportsmanship and to not only disrespect other countries’ athletes but to even punish its own? I don’t think Mr Britva would have had any problem, had Mr Khodadadi won.