Jordan triathlon bans Israelis from competing over alleged security fears
Six Israeli triathletes were banned from competing at an international event in Jordan over the weekend, allegedly due to the need to fund additional security for the team, despite efforts by Israeli officials to include them.
“We couldn’t compete because we are Israelis,” triathlete Itamar Levanon told the Kan public broadcaster. “I thought we were past past situations, but it seems not.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll told Army Radio on Sunday that the incident did not warrant an official diplomatic rebuke to Jordan and that the two countries were working together.
“We approached the ambassador. We’ll see how we take things from there. We are dealing with the matter,” he said, but stressed that the incident does not mean that Jordan is no longer “a partner” with Israel.
The triathlon was held in the southern resort town of Aqaba, and Israeli athletes were eager to participate as it offered the opportunity to earn points to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Israeli authorities first became aware that there was a problem several weeks ago when the athletes were barred from the event.
The Israel Triathlon Association has contacted the Foreign Affairs and Sports Ministries, which have taken up the matter with World Triathlon, the sport’s international governing body, according to Hebrew media.
Despite being told they needed to continue preparing for the event, the five men and one woman were finally told on Friday that they could not attend.
Levanon nevertheless traveled to Jordan in hopes of being able to arrange registration with race officials, but was still told he could not race.
Levanon told the Ynet website that organizers took him aside and explained that there had been a lot of talk about it but he couldn’t compete.
Israeli team coach Ori Zilberman told the outlet that Israeli officials have made a big effort on behalf of the team, but the blame lies with the Jordanians and World Triathlon.
He said the Israelis had been told that the Jordanians were not prepared to fund additional protection for the Israeli team, and that was why they had been excluded.
“Ministries didn’t like what happened because it’s a dangerous precedent – for other sports as well. A country like Jordan that says ‘it’s not appropriate for us to have the Israelis’,” Zilberman lamented.
Channel 12 quoted a statement by Jordanian officials that organizers had threatened to cancel the entire event if Israelis attended, due to fears of an attack. Jordanian officials claimed that the Israelis were not barred from attending but rather were told not to attend.
Other countries that have boycotted Israeli athletes have faced harsh measures from international sports bodies.
In November 2021, the Men’s World Team Squash Championship in Malaysia was canceled as the country would not let in an Israeli team.
Iran has been banned from international judo events for four years for refusing to let its athletes compete against Israeli opponents.