Israeli President Shimon Peres cancels London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony visit over Sabbath travel issue
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 11 July 2012
Israel’s President Shimon Peres has cancelled his planned visit to the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony after the organisers refused his request to sleep in the Olympic Village to avoid travelling by car on the Jewish Sabbath.
Mr Peres’ staff made the request when they realised that the ceremony would extend well beyond sundown on Friday 27 July. This meant the 88-year-old President would need to walk back from the ceremony to maintain respect for the Sabbath. Although not religiously observant, Mr Peres does not make public journeys by car on the Sabbath.
But Mr Peres’s office was told by Lord Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Games (LOCOG), that rules precluded anyone staying in the Village other than athletes. Nor was it possible to find suitable hotel accommodation within walking distance of the stadium.
As a result the President’s office said today: “The president decided to cancel his visit and not desecrate Shabbat. The president wishes good luck to the Israeli athletes."
Ayelet Frisch, spokesperson for the President, said Mr Peres did not see himself as “elevated above others” and that “if there are rules he accepts and understands them.” She said that the problem had been avoided at Beijing four years ago because accommodation had been found two minutes away from where the ceremony was held.
Ms Frisch said there was “no connection whatsoever” between his decision and the separate campaign by Israel for a minute’s silence to be held at the opening ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre, when Palestinian gunmen killed 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Games.
As at past Games, the International Olympic committee refused the request though Lord Coe will reportedly hold a “personal moment’ to mark the anniversary.
Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
World news in pictures
David Cameron goes to war with newspapers over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
Revealed: Eerie new images show forgotten French apartment that was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched for 70 years
- 1 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 2 Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
- 3 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 4 David Cameron goes to war with newspapers over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
- 5 It’s official: thanks to Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott, anti-Semitism is no more
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£50000 - £58000 per annum + Benefits and Bonus: Progressive Recruitment: SAP F...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + BENS: Progressive Recruitment: Drupal Developer A ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + bens: Progressive Recruitment: C# WEB DEVELOPER Le...
£240 - £260 per day: Progressive Recruitment: WPF Developer (C#, VB.Net) North...