Lebanese Olympic team refuses to ride with Israelis

The head of the Lebanese delegation boasted Saturday that he physically blocked the entrance to the bus to prevent Israeli athletes from boarding.

The Israeli delegation’s experience at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro began on an unpleasant note on Friday when the Lebanese delegation refused to share the same bus to the opening ceremony.

The Lebanese team had already boarded the bus and refused to allow the Israelis to join them.

The event organizers bussed the teams separately, aiming to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Israeli sailing coach Udi Gal described the incident in a Facebook post, saying it was “an event which left me saddened.”

“Only days before the opening ceremony was held, we participated in another ceremony, the memorial ceremony by the International Olympic Committee in memory of Munich Olympic athletes murdered by terrorists. We are here as a delegation athletes, here to represent their nation through sports, not politics. The Israeli delegation includes many outstanding athletes, who are first and fore most human beings,” he wrote.

“This shameful incident has only motivated us. The Olympic spirit is the most important thing and we’re here to protect it and carry it with pride,” he declared.

Israel Radio reported that the head of the Lebanese delegation boasted Saturday that he physically blocked the entrance to the bus to prevent Israeli athletes from boarding.

Saleem a-Haj Nacoula told Lebanese media that the Israelis were “looking for trouble” when they insisted on boarding the same bus, even though they had their own assigned transportation, he claimed.

In another Facebook post in Hebrew, Gal was much harsher in his criticism of the incident. “2016 Olympics…shame on you,” he wrote. “I kept on insisting that we board the bus and said that if the Lebanese did not want to board as well they are welcome to leave.”

Gal criticized Olympic organizers for succumbing to the pressure of the Lebanese.

“How can it be that something like this occurs on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony? Does this not directly oppose what the Olympics represent and stand for…I cannot begin to express my feelings, I am upset and in shock from the incident.”

Israel’s Sports Minister Miri Regev expressed outrage over the incident, calling it “anti-Semitism” and “racism”.

She called on the Olympic Committee to condemn the incident and make sure it is not repeated. She said she is planning to seek a formal condemnation of the incident on Sunday in a meeting of the countries’ committee heads.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News