Prevents Palestinian Athlete Attending Special Olympics - Arabs
Boycott Israeli team
The Irish Times
23 June 2003
Politics reared its head in the Special Olympics
for the first time yesterday when athletes from Saudi Arabia and
Algeria refused to play Israel in football and table-tennis competitions.
Saudi Arabia's five-a-side team was due to compete
against Israel in Belfield, but refused to do so in protest over
the country's treatment of the Palestinians.
The Saudi team was apparently disqualified, according
to the Israelis, after refusing to take part despite repeated
An Algerian table-tennis player also refused to
play against an Israeli.
The Special Olympics organising committee was last
night unable to confirm details of the controversy.
However, Mr Boaz Rodkin, the charge d'affaires in
the Israeli embassy, said he was "saddened".
"It's against the whole spirit of the Games,"
Since the foundation of the Games in 1968, the organisers
have always sought to keep politics and nationalism out of the
Unlike the Olympic Games, the Special Olympics do
not include national flags or anthems.
Mr Adi Yeger of the Israeli team's 15-strong delegation
said the team was not political and had played Arab countries
such as Egypt as recently as the weekend.
"The Israeli team has no political bias,"
It was confirmed yesterday
that a 21-year-old Down's syndrome athlete from Palestine, who
was unable to cross the Israeli-controlled border, will not be
attending the Games.
Mr Lyad Abuelkheir, who was
due to compete in the handball competition, was not allowed to
cross the border between Gaza and Egypt despite holding an Irish
The chairman of the host town
committee in Kinsale, Co Cork, expressed frustration at the actions
of the Israeli authorities.
26 June 2003
IT'S rare for an Olympic team to have their entire squad playing
in just one sport, but for Palestine, who endured an arduous trip
to get here, they are happy just to be competing.
Playing yesterday in Team Handball against Mauritania, the Palestinian
coach Marouf Shatara said their amazing time in Ireland had made
the difficult trek out of the country all worthwhile although he
laughingly admitted handball wasn't a popular sport in Palestine.
"The organisers told us they wanted
a handball team! We only met a short while before as a team because
of movement restrictions in Palestine."
He was overwhelmed by their host town Kinsale's support and was
delighted to see a convoy of their new Cork friends had travelled
up to cheer them on.
Although they still haven't won any matches, playing against Egypt
was a highlight for Marouf as the teams hugged each other at the
finish, which he believes "is really what it's all about".
The entire team completed a lap of honour after their game yesterday
and received a standing ovation from the cheering crowds.
Also playing yesterday was Iceland and Algeria, who had a legion
of fans to cheer them on, including restaurant owner Lamara Hebib.
Living in Ireland since 1978, he still hasn't forgotten his roots
as danced around in his Algerian flag, shouting supportively for
his side. He said it was his first visit to the game and he was
hoping for an Algerian victory to see them through to the semi-finals.
His friend Djamal Bey, who was his neighbour in Algeria, said the
atmosphere was brilliant. When asked where his flag was, he replied
confidently: "One flag is all we need."
Also at the National Show Centre in Santry yesterday, Chairman
of the Special Olympics Denis O'Brien popped in to sample the atmosphere
of Team Handball.
Looking fit and relaxed in a charcoal-grey suit, the entrepreneur
took time off from his schedule to tour around some of the city's
venues and congratulate the hard-working volunteers. He said it
was clear everyone was having a great time.
"What really strikes me is all the hard work and professionalism
of the volunteers. All the venues are working like clockwork and
I wanted to personally congratulate everyone for that," he
boycott Israel at Special Olympics
By Sharon Sadeh
24 June 2003
The Israeli delegation to the Special Olympics has lodged an official
protest with the organizers in Ireland after Arab teams boycotted
competitions in which Israel was taking part. The Saudi indoor soccer
team did not show up for a match against the Israelis, nor did an
Algerian table tennis player for his game against an Israeli.
The Arab boycott of the Israeli teams made the front pages of the
There are 150 countries represented at the games, with Israel's
team consisting of 29 participants.