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1st February 2019

2019 World Para Swimming Championships stripped from Malaysia, after banning Israel

Politics once again enters sport as Malaysia stands in solidarity with their fellow Palestinian Muslims over their ongoing conflict with Israel
2019 World Para Swimming Championships stripped from Malaysia, after banning Israel
Photo: Australian Paralympics @Wikimedia Commons

Kuching will no longer see the arrival of the 2019 championships, due to the stance that has been taken by Malaysia on the current Palestinian situation.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is now being forced to look for an alternative host for the championships that take place between the 29th July and 4th August.

The mainly Muslim country in South-East Asia chose to ban any athletes hailing from Israel from competing in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 qualifiers. This is all occurring after original fears of a ban had been put to rest by the Paralympic Council of Malaysia in 2017.

Although some may view the decision as the antisemitic will of Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s 93-year-old Prime Minister, many have backed the country’s decision.

Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s minister of youth and sport, stated that “Malaysia stands firm with our decision on the ground of humanity and compassion for the Palestinian plight. We will not compromise.”

Kuala Lumpur’s decision comes off the back of increasing violence on the Gaza boarder since March last year. Continued encroachment from Israel onto Palestinian land has upset much of the Muslim world, evidently including Malaysia.

However, no matter what stance one takes on the entrenched situation that faces Palestinians and Israelis, the IPC’s statements and actions cannot be disputed.

“Politics and sport are never a good mix,” the words of Andrew Parsons, President of the IPC. The way that the IPC handled the situation has set a firm precedent that should be copied by other institutions: sport is for the pleasure of everyone no matter what background.

This is not the first-time politics has engaged with sport. The 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics was a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, baring clear similarities to the Malaysian actions seen recently.

The championships are set to continue on the same dates, with around 600 athletes competing from across the globe. The size of the qualifier shows the continuing growth of Paralympic sports, which is a huge positive for all involved.

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