Malaysia stripped of Para Swimming Championships

January 28, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Malaysia has been stripped of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championship following failing to guarantee Israeli Para swimmers’ participation.

The decision was taken by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board at its meeting in London after the Home Ministry of Malaysia failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the Championships. This includes full compliance with the IPC protocols related to anthems and flags, and where required the provision of relevant visas.

Leah Schneider told J-Wire from Israel: “The Israeli Paralympic Committee thank the International Paralympic Committee for its courageous decision, which reflects the paralympic spirit of equality between nations regardless of race, gender or religion.”

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

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

In September 2017 when the IPC signed the contract with the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (NPC Malaysia) to host the World Para Swimming Championships, we had assurances that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate in the event with their safety assured.

Since then, there has been a change of political leadership and the new Malaysian government has different ideas. Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia.

As a result of the Board’s decision today, we are now looking for a new host for this vital World Championships, which acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. We will strive to maintain the same dates and conditions for the Championships as to not upset the training schedules of athletes who aim to peak for the end of July and early August. However, we may need to be flexible in this area bearing in mind the circumstances we face.”

Chelsey Gotell, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council, said: “The IPC Athletes’ Council has received a great deal of correspondence from athletes around the world on this situation. We have discussed all potential outcomes and engaged with the World Para Swimming Athlete Advisory Group to gather their feedback on the situation to ensure the athlete voice was well reflected in the IPC Governing Board discussion and decision.

“Not only does this decision stress the importance of keeping sport and politics separate, but it also reinforces the IPC’s commitment to our fundamental moral and ethical principles that encompass inclusivity of all eligible Para athletes and nations to compete at IPC sanctioned events.”

Around 600 swimmers from 60 nations were anticipated to take part in Kuching with more than 160 world titles up for grabs. The IPC encourages all potential hosts for the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships to express an interest in staging the event by 11 February 2019.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the International Paralympic Committee’s decision.

“The International Paralympic Committee has taken a principled and honourable step today in making it clear to both Malaysia and other states around the world that blatant discrimination against other national teams will not be tolerated, and that any attempt to do so would be met with severe repercussions,” Lauder said. “There is absolutely no place in sport for politics, antisemitism, or bigotry, and we sincerely hope that the penalty faced by Malaysia today will deter other countries from such discriminatory policies.”

Federal Labor MP Michael Danby has asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to consider offer Australia as an alternative venue.

President of the ZFA, Jeremy Leibler congratulated the IPC Governing Board for its clear and principled stance against Malaysia on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The Malaysian Government is led by an openly antisemitic Prime Minister who has openly referred to Jews as having ‘hooked-noses’ and grossly minimised the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Athletes on the Israeli team will now have the dignity to compete, proudly representing their country like everybody else. We wish the Israeli Paralympians all the best in the upcoming rescheduled championships, wherever it may be hosted,” Mr Leibler added.

Sadly, this is not the first time a country has tried to boycott Israel by preventing it from participating in sporting or cultural events. We hope this IPC decision sends a clear and strong warning to other countries who consider placing political agendas above sporting codes and competitions,” Mr Leibler concluded.

President of Maccabi Australia Jeff Sher added: “Most of the world was outraged at Malaysia’s decision.”

The championships were due to be held in Kuching between 29 July and 4 August.