After winning gold, Israel to host its first international judo event
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
Just hours after Israel’s top judoka won gold at the Abu Dhabi world tournament on Sunday, it was announced that the Jewish state had secured the right to host its first ever International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Prix event in 2019.
Israel will host one stage of the World Judo Tour in January 2019, followed by another leg of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics ahead of the Olympic cycle in 2024.
“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,” Culture Minister Miri Regev said at the signing ceremony with IJF President Maris Vizer and Israel’s Judo Association chairman Moshe.
“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,” the minister added, explaining that negotiations on the matter had begun two years ago.
Vizer said he wished “to congratulate Israel for their success here today and to congratulate them for their new Grand Prix event.”
Israel’s athlete Sagi Muki claimed victory after defeating Belgium’s Matthias Casse in the 81 kilogram weight class at the 2018 Grand Slam Judo Tournament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Also on Saturday Gili Cohen, Baruch Shmailov and Timna Nelson Levy won bronze medals.
During the medal distribution ceremony, Israel’s national anthem the “Hatika” played for the first time, in what has been deemed one of a number of milestone in the easing of relations between the Jewish state and some Arab countries. This was a poignant moment especially for Regev who was seen in video footage holding back the tears.
The competition has been mired by diplomatic tensions since the IJF in July suspended plans for the UAE to host after they failed to confirm that Israeli athletes would receive equal treatment.
A month later, the IJF then announced that the event would again be hosted by the UAE after the country agreed to allow Israeli contestants to participate in the event brandishing their national symbols, such as the flag, and playing the national anthem should one of its athletes win a gold medal.
The year before at the competition in Abu Dhabi, discriminatory policies were directed at Israeli participants who were forbidden from competing under their nationality.
“We are able to send to the world a message of solitary, friendship and peace and I thank everyone involved in this achievement. We showed a nice example to the youth of the world in a moment that was not just more than a sport but more than judo and was a crucial moment in the world,” IJF’s Viser said praising the appearance of the Israeli delegation participating under its national flag.
“I hope the unity between the two cultures, Muslim and Israeli culture is a start for a new era in the sport and later in the world, social, political, economical areas,” he ended.
On the same day, an Israeli gymnastics delegation was in Qatar for the beginning of the world championships being held in Doha. And on Monday, Israel’s Communications Minister Ayoob Kara was to travel to Dubai to represent Israel at an international internet security conference, his office said.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Oman for an unannounced visit with the Gulf state’s leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
The meeting was a significant step as the two countries have no official diplomatic relations, as well as for Netanyahu who frequently comments on his work behind the scenes to warm ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
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I’m very proud of the achievements of the Israeli judo team. Once again, Israeli Judo has bought honor to the country and to many Jews world wide. But why hasn’t the Israeli media picked up on the fake injury that the Iranian (Saied Mollaei) current world Judo champion claimed he suffered, in order to avoid fighting Sagi Muki, or even to avoid standing on the same podium as him? It needs to be highlighted.