Olympic organisers urged to block Iran over Israel boycott

The 2012 Olympic logo

The 2012 Olympic logo

The leader of the World Jewish Congress has called for Iran to be suspended from international sporting events until the country allows its athletes to race Israelis.

Earlier this week Iranian swimmer Mohammed Alirezaei pulled out of a 100 metre race because an Israeli was also in the heat.

He told the Associated Press that the decision was because he was "tired and drowsy" and not because he had a problem with his Israeli opponent. However he used the identical excuse at the 2008 Olympics, when he refused to participate in a race involving Israeli Tom Beeri.

Whether not Mr Alirezaei's excuse was genuine, Iran's government has previously advocated a ban on Iranian athletes competing against Israelis. The chairman of Iran's National Olympic Committee, Mohammad Ali Abadi, said last year Iran should boycott any sporting contest where there was an Israeli presence.

The WJC's Ronald Lauder said that sports federations should refuse to permit Iranian participation in events, including the 2012 London Olympics, until the ban was ended.

"It is high time that a strong signal is sent to Iran," he said. "This kind of bigotry can and must be overcome, and Tehran must give clear undertakings that Iranian athletes do not shun their Israeli counterparts at sporting events."

He said the International Olympic Committee and others should be willing to "take strong and unequivocal action".

"Iran's behaviour is unsportsmanlike and smacks of antisemitism," he added. "It must be stopped."

In February Iran's Olympic Committee made headlines around the world after it claimed that the London 2012 logo included the word Zion in it. "Using the word Zion in the logo…is a disgracing action and against the Olympics' valuable mottos," they said.

Last updated: 10:26am, July 27 2011