Israel signs ‘historic agreement’ to host world Judo competitions

Just hours after Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won a gold medal in Abu Dhabi, an Israeli official announced that the Jewish state would host its first-ever IJF Grand Prix.


Israel has announced the signing of a “historic deal” to host a stage of the World Judo Tour in January 2019 and another prior to the 2024 Olympics, an agreement made just hours after Israeli champion judoka Sagi Muki won a gold medal at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

Israeli Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev made the agreement alongside International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer and Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte after Muki won the medal, which he earned competing under the Israeli flag and accompanied by the Israeli national anthem for the first time in any Gulf country sport competition.

In previous events in the country, Israel was allowed to compete under the condition that athletes would not wear or display Israeli flags, and that Israel’s national anthem would not be played during medal awarding ceremonies.

However, Israel filed a complaint with the International Judo Federation, which warned Abu Dhabi that it would not host more events until all country’s athletes were treated equally.

“Today has made double history for us, as we have won gold here in Abu Dhabi and our anthem has played, and we have signed a contract to stage our first-ever IJF Grand Prix in Israel,” declared Regev.

“Everyone is invited to our Grand Prix, including all Arabic countries, and I hope you will all see that our country is a peaceful and loving nation with good food and good people.”

Muki beat Belgian athlete Matthias Casse to win gold in the under-81 kilogram category at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

During the awards ceremony, the announcer told attendees, “Ladies and gentleman, please rise for the national anthem of Israel,” after which “Hatikva” was played. Video broadcasts of the event showed Muki singing the words of “Hatikva” and Regev standing off to the side, crying openly and singing along.

The event also marked the first time an Israeli minister attended a sporting event in a Gulf state.

Three Israeli judokas—Gili Cohen, Baruch Shmailov and Timna Nelson Levy—won bronze medals on Saturday, the first day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

Regev was given the honor of awarding the medals for one of the categories.