In televised international swimming competitions, the name of the swimmer is typically displayed above the lane they are swimming in, in addition to a small graphic with the flag of the nation they represent. This is not a political statement, but rather an easy way to determine who swims for what country.
Unfortunately for the Israeli swimmers at the FINA Swimming World Cup in Doha, Qatar, their flag was blurred out from television screens and shown simply as a white box. (See below in lane six.) The physical Israeli flag was also removed from outside of the swimming venue following widespread complaints on Twitter. The Israeli athletes were also referred to as being from "IRS" instead of the full spelled-out name of the country on the scoreboards of several races.
Qatari officials likely violated FINA's code of ethics by removing the flag. From Israel Hayom:
The FINA Code of Ethics states that any tournament shall have "no discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, or political opinion."
It also says: "Officials shall remain politically neutral, in accordance with the principles and objectives of FINA, the confederations, associations, leagues and clubs, and generally act in a manner compatible with their function and integrity."
While Qatar does not currently have diplomatic relations with Israel, Qatar established a trade relationship with Israel in 1996. The action of removing the Israeli flag is a very backwards step in their relationship.
Despite the frosty welcome from the hosting country, Israeli swimmers did well at the event, with Amit Ivri breaking a national record and placing second in the 100-meter individual medley, and others placed in the top ten in their events.
Qatar is scheduled to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but has been plagued with controversy since they won the bid in 2010. Accusations of bribery, slave labor, and questions about the climate (both political and weather) have raised serious questions about the feasibility of hosting the event in the nation.
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