An Israeli judoka who won a gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Gold Slam tournament was forced to celebrate his victory under the International Judo Federation’s flag and anthem.
Tal Flicker defeated his Azerbaijani rival to win gold in men’s under 66 kg category, but the United Arab Emirates’ ban on Israeli symbols meant he officially competed for the IFJ.
The twelve Israeli athletes at the tournament have been prevented from wearing the Israeli flag or even the three-letter country code ISR.
Flicker appeared to be singing Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel, as the IFJ’s anthem was played over the tournament’s sound system.
No local organisers of the tournament appeared to be on stage during the podium ceremony, with Flicker’s medal presented to him by Head Refereeing Director Juan Carlos Barcos, a Spanish national. Prize money and a floral tribute was handed out by Japan's Takao Kawaguchi.
The medals at a ceremony held 25 minutes earlier for the women's under 52 kg category were presented by local airline director Nadir Al Hammadi.
Flicker’s victory came a day after the IJF called on the United Arab Emirates to treat Israeli athletes equally during the tournament.
The letter from to the president of the UAE Judo Federation obtained by the AP news agency said “all delegations, including the Israeli delegation, shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception.”
The letter also said IJF statutes “clearly provide that the IJF shall not discriminate on the ground of race, religion, gender or political opinion.”
There are no diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.