COPENHAGEN (Jul. 16)
The eighth Gymnastrada, the first international sports event in which both Israeli and Palestinian teams are participating, was marred by a minor but nasty incident and the intrusion of Middle East politics at its opening in Herning, Denmark Monday.
A police guard was ordered for the 41 Israeli gymnasts and folkdancers after they were cursed and spat upon by Palestinian team members outside the Herning stadium. The Palestinians were also forbidden, by order of the Danish Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry, to display the Palestinian flag.
Teams from 25 countries are participating in the Gymnastrada. There were close to 17,000 spectators at the opening.
The Palestinians, mainly from Bahrain and Kuwait, complained that their flag was banned because of pressure from the Israel Embassy in Copenhagen.
The Embassy denied this, and Niels Nielsen, chairman of the Gymnastrada, said on a television interview that the games management acted on unequivocal orders from the Danish government.