Israeli windsurfers withdraw from sailing tourney in Malaysia over lack of visas

(JTA) — Two Israeli windsurfers and their coach withdrew from the ISAF world youth sailing championships in Malaysia after they did not receive visas to travel there.

Israel and Malaysia do not have diplomatic relations.  The championship began on Sunday and runs through Jan. 3, 2016.

Yoav Omer last year took the gold medal in the boys under-19 category, and Noy Drihan took gold in the under-17 and under-19 wind surfing events. The championship was held last year in Poland.

Israel Sailing Association chairman Amir Gill told the Jerusalem Post that he and his players had been offered conditional visas to compete in the championship. Among the terms, he said, were that the Israeli windsurfers would not be allowed to compete under the Israeli flag, would not be allowed to wear any symbols associated with Israel and would not have Israel’s national anthem played if they won the gold medal.

Israel’s sailing association, along with the Olympic Committee of Israel, is considering a filing a lawsuit against Malaysia and the International Sailing Federation, Amir told the Post.

Malaysia’s  Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told the Malay Mail Online news website  that Malaysia the country was guided by its existing diplomatic policy in offering the visas with conditions.

World Sailing said in a statement issued on Sunday that it would investigate the issue. The statement said that a member of the World Sailing Executive was on his way to Malaysia to seek clarification from the Malaysian Organizing Authority.

“World Sailing is committed to ensuring participation in our sport by competitors from all nations, and is taking this issue seriously,” World Sailing President Carlo Croce said in the statement.

“World Sailing expects the organizing authority of its events to allow sailors from all nations to compete on an equal basis. This expectation is made clear in the bid process and is set out in the contractual documentation governing our events,” he also said.

In November, two Israeli judokas won medals at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi after reportedly agreeing to compete without Israeli symbols and insignia in exchange for visas to enter the United Arab Emirates, which does not have formal relations with Israel.



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