The organizers of the Grand Slam judo event in Abu Dhabi have informed the Israel Judo Association that its judokas will not be allowed to wear the Israeli flag on their uniform during the upcoming competition. The Israel Judo Association criticized the decision.

Olympic medalist Ori Sasson

Olympic medalist Ori Sasson Photo Credit: Olympic Committee of Israel/Channel 2 News

At the end of the month, the Grand Slam judo event in Abu Dhabi will take place, and the top Israeli judokas are preparing for the prestigious competition. However, the Israel Judo Association was informed Monday that the organizers in the United Arab Emirates have decided to ban the Israeli judokas from wearing their country’s flag during the event. The association condemned the decision: “We are strongly opposed to the mixing of politics and sports and we believe that the sport is supposed to be a battle between people and not the other way around.”

In accordance with the organizers’ decision, the Israeli judokas will be represented as members of the IJF (International Judo Federation), instead of competitors on behalf of Israel. IJF will be written on the back of their uniform, not ISR for Israel. If an Israeli judoka wins a medal, the Israeli flag will not be waved; if an Israeli judoka wins a gold medal, the Israeli anthem will not be played.

The Israel Judo Association plans to check with the International Judo Federation regarding whether the organizers’ decision can be reversed. However, the association stated that the event’s organizers are not bound by the IJF’s guidelines.

The association found itself in the same situation two years ago, when judokas Yarden Gerbi and Sagi Muki had to compete under the IJF’s name during the previous competition in Abu Dhabi. “Just like what happened two years ago at an event in Abu Dhabi, the Israel Judo Association estimates that also this time, the Israeli delegation will not be allowed to compete under the national flags,” the association said in a statement. “This assessment was made after Israel Judo Association President Moshe Ponti spoke with International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer.”