The International Judo Federation (IJF) announced Monday that it will bring back the Grand Slam competition tour to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, after the state has pledged to allow Israeli athletes to participate with the Israeli flag and accompanied by the national anthem during medal ceremonies.
In July, President of the IJF Marius Weiser, announced that he was canceling the federation’s competitions in Tunisia and Abu Dhabi following incidents of discrimination.
"In an attempt to take a firm and constructive stand against discrimination in sports, the IJF suspends Abu Dhabi and Tunisia from hosting any future competitions,” he stressed.
The IJF published a statement saying the UAE had succumbed to the many pressures exerted on it and will permit the Israeli delegation to compete with the country’s national symbols.
"The historic decision will allow all nations, including Israel, to be accompanied by their national symbols and anthem," the official statement read.
"The IJF salutes the efforts of the UAE for taking a major step toward promoting peaceful relations between all countries of the world. The UAE, along with our partners, remains committed to the struggle against all discrimination in sports, which should be used as a tool for reconciliation and promotion of peace in the world," concluded the statement.
Weiser in recent years has been making continuing efforts to allow Israelis to participate in competitions in Abu Dhabi and Tunisia without suffering discrimination for standing on the podium with the country's symbols and to the sounds of the Israeli national anthem.
Last year, Tal Flicker won the gold medal in Abu Dhabi. However, the Israeli flag was not hoisted, with the IJF flag raised instead. Flicker had to stand on the podium and sing the national anthem by himself. Since then, efforts have been made to put an end to this phenomenon.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev sent letters to Weiser regarding the matter, and the two even met in person several times.
"I was surprised to hear that the members of the Israeli delegation will not be able to compete with the country’s symbols," wrote the minister.
"This demand crosses all boundaries of the international sports associations' mandate, whose main goal is to kick politics out of sports, which serves as a bridge that connects between all nations, cultures and states," concluded Regev.
President of the Israeli Judo Federation Moshe Ponty, praised the UAE's decision, calling it “courageous.”
"Weiser proved that he is a true friend of the Israeli Judo Federation and that he is not afraid to take far-reaching steps in favor of sports. I would also like to thank the UAE, who have shown that it is possible to take courageous steps and prove that sports can bring people closer,” Ponty emphasized.
Ponty also thanked Regev for her efforts, praising her behind-the-scenes efforts to amend the neglect of the Israeli identity in international arenas.
"The Culture and Sports Minister has been acting behind the scenes so that we will be able to carry our flag proudly,” he exclaimed.
“We’ve been working for over two years in order to achieve this result. I was prepared to endure criticism because I knew that in the long run, through quiet channels, we will able to wave the Israeli flag everywhere. I am happy, happy and proud," Ponty concluded.