'Antisemitic' Lebanese team refuse to travel with Israeli athletes in Rio


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reprimanded the head of the Lebanese Olympic team after Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with their Israeli opponents on the journey to the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games.

Miri Regev, the Israeli Culture and Sport Minister, labelled the decision the "worst kind of racism".

Following a hearing on the matter, the IOC issued a warning to Salim al-Haj Nicolas, head of the Lebanese Olympic team, saying that they would not accept any further incidents.

Members of both teams have confirmed that the Lebanese team demanded that Israeli athletes should not be allowed to get on the bus waiting to head to the Maracana stadium on Friday evening.

The countries, who are officially at war, have no diplomatic relations.

Israeli athletes ignored the demands and boarded the bus anyway but the incident could not be resolved and the two teams subsequently had to travel to the ceremony in different buses.

al-Haj Nicolas told AFP news agency that he called for the door to be closed on the Israeli team, but they "insisted on getting on".

On Facebook, Udi Gal, a member of Israel's Olympic sailing team, echoed the words, saying his fellow competitors "insisted on boarding the bus".

Mr Gal said: “The bus driver opened the door, but this time the head of the Lebanese delegation blocked the aisle and entrance. The organizers wanted to avoid an international and physical incident and sent us away to a different bus.”

He added: "How could they let this happen on the eve of the Olympic Games? Isn't this the opposite of what the Olympics represents?"

“It is antisemitism pure and simple, and the worst kind of racism,” Ms Regev told Israel Radio. “The [International] Olympic Committee, which champions the separation of sports and politics, must condemn this vehemently and work to ensure that such behaviour is not repeated."

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