Paralympics: Malaysia stripped of swimming event over Israeli ban

Kiwi Sophie Pascoe.
Kiwi Sophie Pascoe competing at the 2015 IPC championships. Photo credit: Photosport

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 world para swimming championships after the country banned Israeli athletes from participating.

The championships, a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, had been scheduled for Kuching between Jul 29 and August 4.

The IPC announced on Monday (NZ time) a new venue would be sought for the same dates, although there might have to be some flexibility in the light of circumstances.

"All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination," said IPC president Andrew Parsons.

"When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host."

Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country that does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, announced this month that it would bar Israelis from any event held in the Southeast Asia nation.

Israel had condemned the ban as "shameful" and said the decision was inspired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's "rabid anti-Semitism".

"This is a victory of values over hatred and bigotry, a strong statement in favour of freedom and equality. Thank you @Paralympics for your brave decision," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon on Twitter.

Malaysia's Minister of Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, said the country stood by its decision to bar Israeli athletes.

"If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly loss its moral compass," he said in a statement.

"Malaysia stands firm with our decision on the ground of humanity and compassion for the Palestinian plight. We will not compromise."

Some 600 swimmers from 60 countries had been expected to compete in the championships in the eastern state of Sarawak, with more than 160 titles to be won.

The IPC said all potential replacement hosts were asked to express an interest by February 11.

"The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion," said Parsons.

"Regardless of the countries involved in this matter, the IPC would take the same decision again if it was to face a similar situation involving different countries."

"Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia."

Reuters