Iran's world judo champion Arash Miresmaeili refused to compete against an Israeli Sunday, triggering a fresh crisis at the Olympic Games where race, creed or color are barred from interfering in sport.
The burning issue in the judo was whether any penalty would hit Miresmaeili alone or the entire Iranian team, as the intrusion of the Middle East's bitter politics threatened to fly in the face of the Olympic ideal.
Iran's President Mohammad Khatami left no doubt about his feelings, saying Miresmaeili's action should be "recorded in the history of Iranian glories."
Miresmaeili was quoted by Iran's official news agency IRNA as saying he "refused to face my Israeli rival in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinian people," adding: "I am not upset about the decision I have made."But shunned Israeli opponent Ehud Vaks told Israeli Army radio he felt sure Mirasmaeili had no choice. "The fact that he did not take part is sad," he said. "They broke his heart
."Iran defies Olympic spirit by shunning Israel