Rings: Iranian Swimmer Not Punished for Failing To Swim Against Israeli

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IAn Iranian swimmer who pulled out of an Olympic race with an Israeli athlete on Saturday will not be punished after International Olympic Committee official credited the Iranian’s claim that he withdrew due to illness. Moments before the heats in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke on Saturday, Mohammad Alirezaei backed out. He was to face a field that included Tom Be’eri of Israel. A spokeswoman for the IOC, Giselle Davies, initially said Mr. Alirezaei could be disqualified from the Olympics if he refused to participate because of the Israeli competitor, but she said Monday that the committee has accepted Mr. Alirezaei’s claim that he was ill. “He confirmed this in writing to the swimming federation. We’ve also spoken with the national Olympic committee and they have underlined to us that all their athletes compete here in the right spirit against athletes from any nationality,” Ms. Davies told the Associated Press. “We take both the athlete and the national Olympic committee at their word on this,” she said.

In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Iran withdrew a judo competitor assigned to face an Israeli. However, on Sunday an American-born Israeli who is coaching the Russian basketball team, David Blatt, struck a blow against the Iranian boycott by shaking hands with every member of the Iranian basketball squad, who may not have realized he is an Israeli.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Beijing, Guy Kivetz, had no comment on the IOC decision, but decried the action by the Iranian swimmer.

“It’s not the first time and, unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last time, either,” Mr. Kivetz said. “We are very sorry that the athletes are involving politics in sports. I think the water in the pool and the water in the sea are just water and they are for sport not for politics. … We don’t have anything against Iranians, just the extreme Iranian regime.”

In his swim on Saturday, Mr. Be’eri broke the Israeli record with a time of 1:02.42, but he failed to make the finals.


A week after a British newspaper reported that a Chinese dancer was seriously injured in a fall during rehearsal for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, the Chinese government is confirming that the performer was paralyzed in the mishap. Liu Yan, who was to perform a solo “Silk Road” dance, fell from a three meter high platform during a July 27 practice “after the vehicle carrying the platform moved without warning,” according to a report yesterday on an English-language Web site run by the State Council Information Office. “She was rushed to hospital, where surgeons worked through the night on a six-hour operation. But when Liu regained consciousness, the lower part of her body was numb. Doctors said her spinal cord had been damaged,” the site said. The official Chinese account said the director of the show, Zhang Yimou, and other officials had visited Ms. Liu in the hospital and apologized for the accident. The official report said she was “rushed to hospital,” but London Daily Telegraph’s reported last week that she spent 50 minutes sprawled on the ground before paramedics arrived.


As many as 15 neighborhoods in Beijing experienced power failures during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on Friday and on succeeding nights, according to an account on the Web site of a well-respected business magazine, Caijing. “The blackout struck our whole community exactly when the Opening Ceremony was about to begin,” a Caijing reporter, Yang Yue, wrote. “I heard people yelling and someone threw a wine bottle out the window. It’s never happened even on Chinese New Year’s Eve. A man called on people to go together to ask the property management company about the situation.” Officials initially blamed a transmission cable failure, but later acknowledged a connection to the Olympics. “On August 10, a guy from the management company came to my apartment, explaining 15 communities had blackout as we did and it’s for electricity consumption of the Olympic Games,” Mr. Yang wrote. He said he was later given a letter of apology and a carton of mineral water for the inconvenience. Before the Games began, officials told reporters that ample power was available for the Opening Ceremony and no blackouts would be necessary.

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