Iranian refuses to race Israeli swimmer

Politics reared its ugly head at the Olympic Games once more on Saturday after an Iranian swimmer refused to compete alongside Israeli Tom Be’eri.

Swimmers dive into water in...

Swimmers dive into water in the National Aquatics Center at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Saturday.
Photo: AP

Mohammad Alirezaei was due to race against Be’eri in the fourth heat of the 100 meter breaststroke, but pulled out, apparently under the orders of the chiefs of the Iranian delegation.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened and it doesn’t surprise me anymore,” Olympic Committee of Israel General Secretary Efraim Zinger told The Jerusalem Post. “Politics takes precedence over sport with the Iranians and the Olympic spirit is as far from them as east is far from west.

“My heart goes out to the Iranian athletes. In the Athens Olympics one of their sportsmen, who was a gold medal favorite, had to pull out because he was drawn against an Israeli.

“There’s no place for this kind of behavior in the Olympic movement and it’s a shame it continues.”

In a superb opening day of racing for Israel’s swimmers, which was sadly marred, the delegation’s three competitors set two Israeli records and one personal best.

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