An Egyptian Olympic judoka was booed by crowds and sent home after refusing to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand.
The International Olympic Committee has confirmed that Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby has been sent home from the Rio Olympics for refusing to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent after a bout.
El Shehaby, who lost the fight against his opponent, Or Sasson, last Friday, was sent home by his own team and admonished by the IOC for his behaviour.
Shaking hands is not obligatory by judo rules but the IOC felt El Shehaby’s actions went against the Games’ “rules of fair play” and “spirit of friendship”.
The Egyptian Olympic Committee has also strongly condemned the actions of Mr Islam El Shehaby and has sent him home.
The IOC said in a statement. “The President of the National Olympic Committee issued a statement saying they respected all athletes and all nations at the Olympic Games”.
After the fight El Shehaby and Sasson retook their positions in front of the referee. The Egyptian backed away when the Israeli bowed and approached him to shake hands.
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When called back by the referee to bow, El Shehaby gave a quick nod before walking off to loud jeering from the crowd.
“The Disciplinary Commission considered that his behavior at the end of the competition was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic Values”, the IOC said.
“The DC issued a “severe reprimand for inappropriate behaviour” to the athlete. It noted…the shaking of hands after a match is not in the competition rules of the International Judo Federation”.
“As well as a severe reprimand, the DC has asked the Egyptian Olympic Committee to ensure in future that all their athletes receive proper education on the Olympic Values before coming to the Olympic Games”, the IOC stated.
Fans had reportedly been pressurising the Egyptian Olympian on social media to not turn up for the fight in protest against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
The reaction on Twitter has been mixed of his actions. @dianapr1ince tweeted: “Disgraceful from #EGY Islam El Shehaby for not shaking hands. No respect for the sport or for the Olympic spirit.” Whereas @fassy_ole tweeted El Shehaby will have refused the sportsmanly gesture: “probably because Israel contravenes a load of other rules…”
Speaking after the fight El Shehaby said: “Shaking the hand of your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he’s not my friend.
“I have no problem with Jewish people or any other religion or different beliefs. But for personal reasons, you can’t ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this State, especially in front of the whole world.”
Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979 but the treaty remains widely unpopular among many Egyptians.
The two countries have undergone four wars and Egyptian territory has previously been occupied by the Zionist entity.
Last month Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu- the first time in nine years an Egyptian foreign minister visited Israel.
Despite claims by officials from both countries, and Egyptian media outlets, of enhancing the peace process, Egyptians, particularly the older populace, remain sceptical.
Reports reveal much of public sentiment is against any “normalisation” of relations with Israel in its current uber-militaristic apartheid set-up.