The International Olympic Committee’s desperate attempt to assimilate the uncooperative — at the expense of its rank-and-file participants — is shameful.
It bent over backwards for Saudi Arabia, which demanded judo fighter Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani be allowed to wear her traditional headscarf at the London games, compromising on vital safety rules about headgear to keep the peace — even as the committee threatened to deny U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte his gold medal unless he removed his jewel-encrusted, Stars and Stripes mouth grill during his award ceremony.
But the special privileges heaped upon Shahrkhani to attract Islamic athletes to the games — the judoka was allowed to compete without being a black belt or even qualifying— is simply not kosher, and was an insult to Americans and Saudi Arabians who appreciate fair play.
Of course, the debacle is ironic, considering that women are treated like sports zeroes in Saudi Arabia, where they are banned from playing or watching sports in public, and gym classes are conducted secretly in private schools.
But it wasn’t the first time this year that the International Olympic Committee took a misstep in its attempt to show solidarity with all nations and creeds. Olympic officials refused to hold a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies for those killed during 1972 Munich massacre, when armed Islamic-Palestinian terrorists took hostage and murdered six coaches and five athletes on the Israeli team. To the committee’s discredit, it stood firm even after the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee fired off a gloating letter thanking them for the omission.
Sports exist to transport the challenger and the spectator to a carefree realm far removed from life’s trials, tribulations and trappings, but their core beliefs are being put to the test in an increasingly Islamo-centric world preoccupied with making sure no one takes his ball and goes home with it.
Must Olympic host nations now be held hostage by religious customs? Must they now institute holy stations facing Mecca in their arenas, complete with an imam’s bugle call, and suspend competition five times a day for prayers?
Conservative Muslim nations are more than welcome to compete in international sports competitions, but they shouldn’t force their athletes to bring their cultural kit and caboodle with them — unless their goal is to go for the gold in creating world tensions.
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Reach reporter Shavana Abruzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-2529.