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Special Olympics Vows to End Politicization Against Israel in Games

Posted: July 15, 2003

In response to concerns raised by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that a number of teams representing Arab countries at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland had refused to play in scheduled competitions against Israeli teams, the Special Olympics organization has vowed to reprimand those who seek to hijack the games for “narrow political purposes.”

Special Olympics Letter to ADL
(.pdf format - 145 KB - requires Acrobat Reader)

In a letter to ADL, Timothy P. Shriver, President and CEO of the Special Olympics, acknowledged that he was aware of a small number of teams in the Special Olympics World Games “refusing to participate for no legitimate reason.”

Shriver’s June 27 letter came just days after Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, urged the leadership of Special Olympics International to speak out against such acts of blatant intolerance and prejudice and consider taking appropriate disciplinary action against the offending teams.

Among those failing to show for their matches against Israeli teams during the games, held June 21 - 29 in Dublin, were the Saudi indoor soccer team and an Algerian table tennis player. The League described such behavior as “unsportsmanlike” and “contrary to the spirit of the Special Olympics, which is meant to be a celebration of the accomplishments of these special athletes in an inclusive and nonpolitical environment.”

Special Olympics assured ADL that it will not permit nations to use the games to make political statements by excluding athletes from competition.

“As you might reasonably expect, I have made an appropriate remonstrance concerning this behavior to the national officials whose teams have, it seems, been instructed not to participate in selected competitions,” Mr. Shriver said. “I would hope that this action will have the desired effect: namely, that no nation, whatever its political stance, would seek to use this Movement for its narrow political purposes.”

The League commended Shriver’s response, saying that it hoped such unsportsmanlike behavior would not occur in future games of the Special Olympics.
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