In the ancient Olympic Games, when city-states like Athens and Sparta competed against each other, there was one rule that was to always be honored: “ekecheiria” - truce. During the Olympic Games, all nations were not to fight each other, and runners were sent to participant cities to announce the beginning of the truce, and nations put down their weapons to secure a safe game experience.
Fast forward almost 3,000 years, and these rules are no longer in play. In a world where politics and sports are tied together, even the noble act of competing under the Olympic flag for the human spirit seems pretty, well, ancient.
Recent reports claim that Iranian athletes will compete against Israelis in the upcoming Summer Games in London. Zvi Warshaviak, head of the Israeli Olympic Committee is skeptical, quipping that he believes the Iranians would go so far as to say that one of their male athletes was menstrating in order to avoid competing against Israel.
Although Warshaviak didn’t make his point in the most classy way, it is certainly true that Middle Eastern nations, often Iran, have refused to compete against Israel in the Olympic Games, Olympic qualifiers and world championships. Some countries have offered up creative excuses in order to avoid fines.
Here are a few of the main refusals:
1. Arash Miresmaeili, Iranian judoka, Athens 2004
Miresmaeili, who was favored to win the gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and was even the flag bearer for Iran during the opening ceremonies, was favored to beat Israeli judoka Udi Vaks in the first round. However, at the pre-match weigh-in … he came in overweight and was disqualified. There were rumors (never confirmed) that Miresmeili purposely put on pounds so that he could avoid the match without forfeiting — a move that would have caused the International Olympic Committee to issue a fine and possibly ban him from future competition. But Miresmeili later said, “Although I have trained for months and was in good shape I refused to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine and I do not feel upset at all.” It wasreported that upon returning home he was given $125,000 — the same amount awarded to Iran’s gold medalists. More ▸