Israeli wheelchair basketball team
Photo: Boaz Rabinowitz

Paralympics: Iran refuses to play US

Iranian wheelchair basketball team refuses to compete against US in move assumed to be preemptive measure against later meeting Israeli team. Iranian official: 'Move not political, has to do with game times'

Diplomatic turmoil struck the Beijing Paralympics Saturday when the Iranian wheelchair basketball team refused to play the US team, and was penalized with a technical loss. The team is also expected to be disqualified from the tournament.  


The winner of the US-Iran match would have gone on to meet the winner of Israel-Canada, and this was seen as the main reason for Iran's withdrawal; however an Iranian official denied the move was politically motivated.


A statement issued by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) and the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) said the associations "regret this decision taken by Iran and the disruption caused to the tournament".


An Iranian official said the forfeit was prompted by the game being brought forward from 11:15 am to 9 am. "The main reason is ... some change suddenly in the time of the match," said the official, a member of Iran's delegation in Beijing.


The game was to have aired live on Iranian television, and many Iranians in China had bought tickets. "This sudden change has made a lot of problems for us," he said. "(Because of) the problems this causes for the delegation, this team decided not to participate in the game."


Israel stands to benefit from Iran's early retirement from the competition. The Israeli team was defeated by Canada on Saturday, and was scheduled to play against Iran for fifth to eighth places, however now the team will be able to skip directly to the event that will determine fifth place.


There have been other recent examples of Iran representatives pulling out of Olympic events involving Israel. At the Beijing Olympics last month, Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei pulled out of a 100-meter breaststroke heat that included an Israeli competitor, citing illness.


At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iran's judo world champion and gold medal favorite Arash Miresmaeili did not compete against an Israeli opponent, publicly stating it was for political reasons. Iranian government officials were quoted in state media as congratulating him for doing so. 


In swimming, a new Israeli record was set by Inbal Schwartz, who swam the women's 50m butterfly in 40.79 seconds. Schwartz, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is a protégé of Noah Ram, an IDF disabled veteran who has won six medals in international swimming competitions.


AP contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 09.13.08, 11:43
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