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Friday, December 31, 2021

After barring Israeli players, Malaysia risks losing out on hosting international sports meets


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has cautioned Malaysia that it may not be able to host future sporting competitions if it continues to bar athletes from entering the country based on their nationality.

This is according to Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary-general Mohammad Nazifuddin Najib (above).

He reportedly told The Vibes yesterday that the IOC relayed this in a recent meeting with OCM in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“We are still waiting for the IOC to officially inform us about this, but we did discuss the matter during our recent meeting with the IOC in Dubai [...]

“They had asked us to discuss with the government and come up with a solution or risk not hosting any competitions.

“We have written to the Ministry of Youth and Sports to bring this up in Parliament as this is a serious matter and requires a pragmatic solution. We hope the ministry will lead the way,” Nazifuddin was quoted as saying.

This comes after Malaysia, as hosts of the World Team Squash Championship, recently denied Israeli athletes visas.

The World Squash Federation later called off the men’s squash tournament altogether, citing these visa issues and the Covid-19 Omicron variant as reasons.

The competition was set to take place in Kuala Lumpur from Dec 7 to Dec 12.

Malaysia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is not the first time Malaysia has been stripped of hosting rights over its move to bar Israeli athletes. Back in 2019, it was stripped of hosting rights for the World Para Swimming Championships after refusing to allow swimmers from Israel to compete.

Issue to be brought to cabinet

Aside from Nazifuddin, OCM president Mohamad Norza Zakaria similarly urged Putrajaya for a solution.

“We will engage with the (Youth and Sports) ministry to bring this up with the government for the best way forward because if we want to continue hosting international tournaments, these are the issues that basically would crop up.

“We take this issue seriously and will also tell the government to look at this immediately because the world sporting fraternity is actually waiting for some feedback from us,” he told a press conference on Dec 29.

In this vein, Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Faizal Azumu reportedly told The Vibes that he would bring the issue up to the cabinet in their next meeting but did not stipulate when.

He also said that his ministry would put forward its opinion on the matter.

Warning from IOC

Earlier this month, Israeli news portal The Jerusalem Post said it obtained a letter from the IOC that urged international sporting federations to ensure athletes from all countries could compete and be treated equally without any political discrimination.

Written by IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell and Director of Olympic Solidarity James Macleod, it wanted sports federations to obtain “written assurances” from their governments and to ensure such assurances are implemented.

The letter reportedly cited Malaysia’s decision to refuse Israeli athletes entry to the World Team Squash Championship and Serbia’s move to ban the Kosovo team from competing in the AIBA World Boxing Championship as examples.

The IOC said it wanted to work with both countries to come up with a long-term solution “failing which such countries would, unfortunately, exclude themselves from the right to host international sports events until all the necessary assurances can be obtained and respected.”

This purported letter was not found on the IOC website at publication time. - Mkini

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