Friday, August 12, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was loudly booed after his first-round Olympics loss to Israel’s fifth-ranked Or Sasson on Friday, when he refused to bow or shake Sasson’s hand, in a major breach of judo etiquette.
Sasson defeated El Shehaby with two throws for an automatic victory, with about a minute and a half remaining in the bout.
Afterwards, El Shehaby lay flat on his back for a moment before standing to take his place before Sasson, in front of the referee. When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head.
Judo players always bow or shake each other’s hands before and after the match as a sign of respect in the Japanese martial art.
El Shehaby had come under pressure from Islamist-leaning and nationalist voices in Egypt to withdraw entirely from the fight.
El Shehaby refused to comment, as did Sasson, who moved to the semifinals later Friday to face top-ranked Teddy Riner of France.
Ofir Gendelman, Arabic language spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the incident “shocking.” In a Twitter post, he said it “goes against the spirit of Rio 2016,” writing in Arabic said that “sports are not the field for politics and extremism.”
The International Judo Federation called it a sign a progress that the fight even took place between the two athletes.
“This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to (fight) Israel,” spokesman Nicolas Messner said in an email. The competitors were under no obligation to shake hands, but a bow is mandatory, he added.
Messner said that even though El Shehaby ultimately bowed, “his attitude will be reviewed after the games to see if any further action should be taken.” He said the ethics commission of judo’s governing body would review the incident after the Olympics.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said he hadn’t heard all the details but that the International Olympic Committee also would look into it.
“Things happen in the heat of the moment that are not acceptable,” Adams said. “We believe the Olympic movement should be about building bridges, not erecting walls. There’s absolutely no excuse for it.”