Israeli judoka Or Sasson defeated Egyptian rival Islam El Shahaby in the first round of the men’s over-100kg competition at the Rio Games on Friday, and was left standing when his opponent refused to shake his hand at the end of the match.
In judo it is customary to both bow to opponents — a sign of respect in Japan — and shake hands after a bout is over.
El Shehaby had been well beaten but stood impassively and then backed away as Sasson tried to shake his hand.
As he left the mat area, El Shehaby was called back to the center by the referee to bow.
But he was then loudly jeered out of the arena by angry supporters.
He later announced he was quitting judo.
Very sad. Egyptian Judoka Islam El Shehaby refuses to shake hands with Israeli Ori Sasson after losing. https://t.co/vZYZZZhItq
— Raphael Gellar (@Raphael_Gellar) August 12, 2016
The 32-year-old Egyptian, a world championship medalist in 2010, had faced pressure on social media and from hardline Islamist groups in his homeland to withdraw from the fight.
Unlike some other Muslim and Arab nations, Egypt has no history of withdrawing from judo bouts against Israelis.
The Egyptian Olympic Committee had insisted before the fight that El Shehaby would compete.
Sasson later advanced to the semifinals of the competition, after first beating Maciej Sarnacki of Poland and then defeating world No. 3 Roy Meyer of Holland in the quarterfinals.
Israel and Egypt have had formal bilateral relations since the 1979 Camp David peace agreement, although the Jewish state remains deeply unpopular on the Arab country’s street.
International Judo Federation spokesman Nicolas Messner said fighters were not obliged to shake hands after a bout.
“In the past, it is not sure that a fight between those two athletes would have taken place. This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to be opposed to Israel,” he said.
“There is no obligation for shaking hands at the end of the fight, but it is compulsory to bow, that’s why the Egyptian was called back to bow and he did.
“Nevertheless, his attitude will be reviewed after the Games to see if any further action should be taken.”
This is not the first time that local politics have led to snubs for Israeli athletes at the 2016 Olympics.
On Sunday, Saudi competitor Joud Fahmy forfeited her first-round judo match against Christianne Legentil from Mauritius at the Games, in what Hebrew media said was a maneuver to avoid facing Israeli judoka Gili Cohen in the next round.
The Saudi Olympic team tweeted that Fahmy had sustained injuries to her arm and leg during training and was advised by medical staff not to compete, the Hebrew language Ynet news site reported. According to Channel 2, Fahmy was not hurt, but simply dropped out to avoid competing against the Israeli judoka.
Cohen then lost to Legentil in a second-round bout later in the day.
Also Sunday, the head of Lebanon’s Olympic Committee was summoned by the Games’ organizers for a dressing down, following a kerfuffle with the Israeli delegation after the two teams were told to share a bus to the opening ceremony Friday night.
The Lebanese delegation refused to allow the Israeli players to board the bus, leading to a spat that injected politics into the Games’ opening.
Eventually, organizers put Israel on a separate bus.
The Lebanese delegation was cautioned not to repeat any such behavior, a warning likely also directed at other teams which do not recognize Israel and chafe at having to share sporting space with the Jewish state.