Malaysia stripped of international swimming tournament after banning Israel over treatment of Palestinians

‘Absolutely no alternative but to look for a new host,’ says International Paralympic Committee chief

Colin Drury
Sunday 27 January 2019 18:55
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Malaysia stripped of international swimming tournament after banning Israel over treatment of Palestinians

Malaysia has been stripped of hosting the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships after it refused to let Israeli athletes compete in the country.

The majority Muslim state attempted to implement the ban because of what Kuala Lumpur sees as Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.

But the International Paralympic Committee said the games would now simply be held elsewhere.

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new championships host,” said the committee’s president Andrew Parsons. “All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination.”

He added: “Politics and sport are never a good mix.”

The IPC defended its decision to award the games to Malaysia in the first place saying it had been given assurances by the country’s Paralympic Council that all eligible athletes would be allowed to compete in host city Kuching.

But a change of government in the intervening two years has resulted in the 93-year-old hardliner Mahathir Mohamad – who has regularly been accused of antisemitism – coming to power.

Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s minister of youth and sports under the new ruler, defended his country’s decision.

“If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly loss its moral compass,” he said in a statement. “Malaysia stands firm with our decision on the ground of humanity and compassion for the Palestinian plight. We will not compromise.”

Israel itself condemned the actions as “shameful”.

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The championships – which will see 600 swimmers competing from 60 different nations – were due to run from 29 July to 4 August.

The IPC said it was “confident” they will go ahead in a new host city on roughly the same dates.

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