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Historic breakthrough: Iran judo to end boycott against Israel

Historic breakthrough: Iran judo to end boycott against Israel

For decades, Iran’s athletes have refused to compete against Israelis. No matter the sport, no matter the situation.  

In a historic breakthrough, on Saturday the International Judo Federation announced that for Iran’s judo athletes the boycotts would be no more.

Iran’s Olympic committee and its national judo federation, in a letter dated Thursday and made public Saturday, agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.” 

In a statement posted on its website, the IJF said the letter came after talks that followed the “disturbing phenomenon” involving the “sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” a “phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries.” 

The IJF, it said, “decided to step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition.” 

Playing soon in Tel Aviv: an extraordinarily normal tour stop

Playing soon in Tel Aviv: an extraordinarily normal tour stop

The prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has declared that the two Israeli swimmers who have applied for visas for the World Paralympic Swimming Championships scheduled for the island of Borneo this summer cannot compete there: “We will not allow them to enter. If they come, then it is an offense.”

Meanwhile, the International Judo Federation next week kicks off its 2019 world tour in Tel Aviv. It’s a big meet, a Grand Prix with more than 50 nations and over 400 athletes, as well as the start to a key season aiming toward the world championships in late August in Tokyo, at the legendary Nippon Budokan, site of the first Olympic judo tournament in 1964.

The contrast could not be more obvious, nor more vivid.

The contrast comes after developments in 2018 that again saw judo, under the steady direction of the IJF president, Marius Vizer, take a lead in doing what sport should be doing: make sure the door is open, the rules are equal and nobody gets turned away simply because of who they are or what the flag on his or her uniform looks like. 

A new normal: Israel and the business of Olympic sport

A new normal: Israel and the business of Olympic sport

TEL AVIV — One of my brothers lives in Northern California, a few miles away from Apple’s new circular spaceship-like campus. A few days ago, hanging out, we ate one of his favorite spots, Falafel Stop.

First, the falafel was amazing. If you’re ever there, seriously — awesome.

Second, Falafel Stop is the sort of place that would make Trump World supporters go berserk. Here was America in the 21st century for real: two Iranian-American couples who’d driven down from San Mateo on a double date because the Yelp reviews made Falafel Stop out to be so good; a pair of Indian-American families at one of the tables, each with a 3-year-old boy; a couple of gearhead car dudes wrapped up in a discussion over whether a 2004 Lexus i300 is the best used-car buy, like, maybe ever. 

Third, all this was because the Israelis had made it very cool to eat — and hang out — there. For anyone and everyone. 

Which is the point. 

In tech, medicine, beauty and skin care, food, all kinds of things, Israel is increasingly one of the world’s cool brands.

Now — what about sports?