Aug. 7, 2016 9:11am Kaitlyn Schallhorn
A group of Lebanese Olympic athletes allegedly blocked an Israeli delegation from boarding their bus en route to the opening ceremony Friday.
Israeli sailing team coach Udi Gal described the alleged incident in a Facebook post Friday. He said that once members of the Lebanese delegation learned that they were to share a bus with the Israeli athletes, they demanded the bus driver close the door to vehicle. When the bus driver eventually opened the doors, Lebanese athletes physically blocked the entrance, Gal said.
“Event organizers, attempting to prevent a diplomatic incident, then organized a separate ride for us,” Gal wrote in Hebrew.
“How can it be that something like this occurs on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony? Does this not directly oppose what the Olympics represent and stand for?” he continued. “I cannot begin to express my feelings. I’m in shock from the incident.”
Gal told TheBlaze that the bus was not strictly for Lebanese athletes but was intended for the two delegations to share — as many delegations are having to share transportation. In fact, he said, the Israeli athletes were guided to the bus by Olympic volunteers.
Someone from the games did apologize to the Israeli team leader “personally and quietly,” Gal said.
“I think it’s wrong and not enough,” he told TheBlaze in an email interview. “Teams … like that need to be punished. It’s against the Olympic spirit and the Olympic charter. Not doing so is promoting more things like that in the future. It’s telling them, ‘it’s fine, you can continue doing so, nothing will happen.’”
“If they don’t want to be with us on the bus or race against us in sport, it’s fine — this is their problem,” Gal continued. “But neither we nor anyone else should be humiliated like that!”
In a subsequent Facebook post, Gal contended that “this shameful incident has only motivated us.”
“The Olympic spirit is the most important thing and we’re here to protect it and carry it with pride,” he wrote. “Shabbat Shalom and best of luck to all the athletes.”
Olympic officials were not available for comment over the weekend, but the head of the Lebanese team appeared to own up to the delegation’s actions. Salim al-Haj Nicolas said that while they demanded the doors to the bus be shut, the Israeli’s “insisted on getting on” the vehicle.
The Times of Israel reported that this year’s Olympic games saw the biggest Israeli delegation yet with 47 athletes competing in 17 sports. The delegation also includes 34 coaches and 25 support staff.
Gal also noted that he commends the International Olympic Committee for recognizing the 11 Israeli athletes and German police officer who were killed during the 1972 Munich Olympics by a Palestinian terrorist group.