(K. Brent Tomer),
The Middle East, a generally unhealthy place, fares miserably in the Olympics. Of its 21 countries with a combined population of 360-odd million, only five have won any medals in Rio, and only one—Iran—has reaped better than a bronze. Egypt, with a larger population than Britain, has two bronze medals, against the latter’s 15 gold, 16 silver and 7 bronze. But rather than make headlines from their athletics, the region’s sportsmen have retreated to a more familiar field: politics.
The first fracas erupted before Rio’s proceedings even began. Unfamiliar with Levantine intrigue, the Olympic committee put the Israeli and Lebanese teams bound for the opening ceremony on the same bus. But their countries are still at war and frown on fraternisation. And when the Israeli team tried to board, Lebanon’s captain barred access. Later during the games, Egypt’s judo champion, Islam El Shahaby, dropped the mandatory bow and snubbed the outstretched hand of his Israeli counterpart. A female Saudi judoka deftly dodged contact with an Israeli by skipping her first round match. Because of injuries, insisted the Saudi media; because of…Continue reading