Malaysia stripped of swimming championships over Israeli athlete ban

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships after it banned Israeli athletes from participating.

The championships were due to be held in Kuching between 29 July and 4 August but the IPC said today that it had no alternative after the Home Ministry of Malaysia failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the Championships. This included full compliance with the IPC protocols related to anthems and flags, and where required the provision of relevant visas.

Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination. When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host.

“The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion. Regardless of the countries involved in this matter, the IPC would take the same decision again if it was to face a similar situation involving different countries.

Mahathir Mohamad

“In September 2017 when the IPC signed the contract with the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (NPC Malaysia) to host the World Para Swimming Championships, we had assurances that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate in the event with their safety assured.

“Since then, there has been a change of political leadership and the new Malaysian government has different ideas. Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia.”

Around 600 swimmers from 60 nations were anticipated to take part in Kuching with more than 160 world titles up for grabs.

Earlier this month Deputy Malaysian Sports Minister, Sim Hee Kyung, said that his country would not allow the Israeli athletes to enter the country, citing the “clear” Malaysian policy regarding dealings with Israel. The minister stressed that: “The government will maintain its steadfast position regarding this issue as a means to protest against the continuous Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad added: “We maintain our stand on the prohibition. If they do come, it is a violation. If they want to withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the championships, they can do so.”

For over 50 years, Malaysia has rejected normalising ties with Israel due to huge popular support for Palestine among the Malaysian population. It is one of a number of Muslim-majority countries that has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, with entry to the country on an Israeli passport prohibited.

Israeli athletes are regularly banned from competing at international sporting events in Arab or Muslim countries, or forced to compete without displaying their national symbols. A number of incidents have led to reprimands from international governing bodies.

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