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No place for hate

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

ATHENS, Greece – Arash Miresmaeili of Iran made his statement Sunday when he refused to compete in an opening-round Judo match here against Ehud Vaks of Israel due to what can only be called religious bigotry cloaked by international politics.

Iran's Olympic delegation made its statement when it supported this hatred.

And now the International Olympic Committee, backed by the civilized world, should make its statement loud and clear: Toss Iran out of the Athens Games.

Immediately.

Disqualify the entire Iranian delegation, send them home and hold them up to international scrutiny and ridicule. Anything less is to look away, to tacitly approve, to take the conciliatory path, to allow xenophobia, racism and religious persecution to thrive.

Anything less is to allow the Games to become a global stage for radical political statements.

Anything less is to spit in the eye of the Olympic ideal that the spirit of competition can bridge differences and bring people of all backgrounds together.

It is one thing if this were one man acting on his own. If Iran came out and condemned the closed-mindedness of its own athlete the issue would be over before it started.

But Iran, which does not recognize Israel's existence and bans contact with the nation, is complicit.

Thursday, when the draw for the judo competition was announced, Miresmaeili told Iran's government-run press agency, "Although I have trained for months and was in good shape I refused to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine and I do not feel upset at all."

By Sunday, Iran was claiming Miresmaeili merely missed weight.

Are we to believe the government-run media misquoted the athlete? Is it plausible that a two-time world champion such as Miresmaeili would fail to make weight for the Olympics?

This entire episode was no surprise. This was no secret.

Even after his statement, Miresmaeili was chosen to carry Iran's flag during the opening ceremony, a disgustingly telling honor.

On Friday night at the Olympic Stadium, Miresmaeili stood among athletes of all creeds and colors and took an oath that, in part, promises to abide by the "true spirit of sportsmanship ... and the honor of our teams."

So what is that oath worth today? What are the Olympics worth?

Would the world stand for a country that approved of athletes who refused to compete against blacks?

Would the world stand for a country that approved of athletes who refused to compete against Muslims?

Of course not.

From 1964 until 1992 the IOC banned South Africa from participating in the Games because of the country's system of apartheid.

It told that country that it wasn't civilized enough to join the world's games. Then it welcomed them back when things changed.

If Iran is so bothered by the presence of Israel, or Jewish athletes from other countries, in these Games then it should have boycotted the entire thing.

Instead it's attempting to make a mockery of the Olympics, turning it into a forum to express unbridled hatred to a global audience.

Yet as of Sunday afternoon here, the IOC had no announced plans to do anything to Iran. It had made no comment at all. No response.

It is a craven and damning silence.