IPC Strips Malaysia of World Para-Swimming Championships After Israel Boycott
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on Sunday stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para-Swimming Championships after it refused to admit Israeli athletes into the country.
The Malaysian government announced in January that it would deny Israeli para-swimmers visas for the 2019 World Para Swimmers (WPS) Championship which were slated to be held in Kuching at the end of July.
The IPC stated that the decision was taken by its Governing Board at its meeting in London after the Home Ministry of Malaysia refused to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the Championships. This includes full compliance with the IPC protocols related to anthems and flags.
IPC President Andrew Parsons stated that “all World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination. When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host”.
“The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion. Regardless of the countries involved in this matter, the IPC would take the same decision again if it was to face a similar situation involving different countries,” he added.
The IPC is now looking for a new host for this vital World Championships, which acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Chelsey Gotell, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council, shared that “the IPC Athletes’ Council has received a great deal of correspondence from athletes around the world on this situation. We have discussed all potential outcomes and engaged with the World Para-Swimming Athlete Advisory Group to gather their feedback on the situation to ensure the athlete voice was well reflected in the IPC Governing Board discussion and decision.”
“Not only does this decision stress the importance of keeping sport and politics separate, but it also reinforces the IPC’s commitment to our fundamental moral and ethical principles that encompass inclusivity of all eligible Para athletes and nations to compete at IPC sanctioned events,” he stated.
Around 600 swimmers from 60 nations were anticipated to take part in Kuching with more than 160 world titles up for grabs.
Emmanuel Nahshon, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, stated that the IPC’s decision is “a victory of values over hatred and bigotry, a strong statement in favor of freedom and equality. Thank you Paralympics for your brave decision!!!”
The Israeli Paralympic Committee thanked the IPC for “its courageous decision, which reflects the Paralympic spirit of equality among nations regardless of race, gender or religion.”
Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev welcomed the decision, stating that “unfortunately, there are Arab countries that mix sports and politics, conduct political battles at the expense of athletes and act against the international charter.”
“It is our duty to act with all the tools at our disposal to ensure that our athletes compete anywhere in the world in an equal manner with our national symbols, anthem and flag, and to ensure that countries that do not preserve these rights will not host an international competition,” she underscored.
Last year, Saudi Arabia denied Israeli chess players the chance to participate in an international competition in the country, and the Israeli Taekwondo team was not allowed to fly to the world junior championship held in Tunisia.
However, Israel has seen some success in thwarting Arab and Muslim countries’ attempts at preventing its athletes from participating in international tournaments.
Last year, the International Judo Federation (IJF) suspended the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix from its competition calendar, after they refused to display the Israeli flag or to play the Israeli national anthem
In October, the Israeli national anthem was played in UAE as Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki won the Gold medal, while in a previous competition held in the UAE, Israel’s national anthem and Israel’s flag were banned as Israeli Tal Flicker took the gold medal.