A young Iranian athlete was recently ordered not to show up for the Taekwondo gold medal fight in the youth Olympics in Singapore, because his rival was Israeli.
So far this is a routine matter: This was not the first time where an Iranian athlete failed to show up for a competition against an Israeli athlete, even at the price of losing the championship or the gold medal. In order to avoid sanctions by organizers, Iranian delegation heads always claim that the reason for the no-show is not, heaven forbid, a political boycott, but rather, the athlete's injury or illness.
This is what they did this time around in Singapore as well. Members of the International Olympic Committee did not buy the excuse, even though an ambulance was called in to transfer the "gravely ill" Iranian to the hospital, but they were forced to accept this reality for lack of other choice. A short while earlier, the Iranian boy appeared to be in excellent shape when he easily defeated an American rival in the semi-finals, but that too isn't new.
This affair would have joined a long list of similar past incidents, yet two days after the Iranian show, the International Olympic Committee's Belgian President, Dr. Jacque Rogge, declared that the Iranian athlete was clearly and undoubtedly hurt, as evidenced by the fact that he was taken to hospital.
This statement changes the picture, because there is no doubt that the Belgian doctor isn't stupid or naïve. He knows well that the "injured Iranian" was well. Hence, his declaration is blatantly political. Instead of speaking out against growing politicization in sports and putting an end to it, he tried to legitimatize Iranian wrongdoing.
Yet why should Rogge be different than his predecessors? The American Avery Brundage, for example, did not see fit to stop the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich following the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. Then there was the arrogant Juan Antonio Samaranch, a declared fascist and one of the most zealous, closest supporters of Spanish dictator Franco. Samaranch turned the International Olympic Committee into one of the world's most powerful and wealthiest organizations, but also to a body replete with corruption and manipulation.
The 1996 Olympics, which should have logically been held in Athens, the city where a tradition that originated in ancient Greece was revived precisely 100 years earlier, were for some reason held in Atlanta. Did it have something to do with the fact that this US city is home to a giant Coca Cola plant, and that the company is one of the greatest Olympic sponsors and advertisers?
With his needless, infuriating statement, Jacque Rogge confirmed that he too is privy to unsportsmanlike considerations. Indeed, presidents of the International Olympic Committee come and go, but they don't change.