search

In first, Israel to host 2019 Judo Grand Prix event

Culture Minister Regev signs deal with International Judo Federation for two legs of world tour to be held in Jewish state; ‘everyone is invited,’ she says

(L-R) Culture Minister Miri Regev, international Judo Federation president Marius Vizel and Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte sign an agreement for Israel to host a Grand Prix in 2018, October 28, 2018. (Guy Inbar)
(L-R) Culture Minister Miri Regev, international Judo Federation president Marius Vizel and Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte sign an agreement for Israel to host a Grand Prix in 2018, October 28, 2018. (Guy Inbar)

It was a successful day Sunday for Israeli Judo both on and off the tatami, with Israel securing hosting rights to one of the sports premium events just hours after its top judoka won gold in another.

After presenting the medal to Sagi Muki when he won the under-81 kilogram category at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, the first ever Gulf country to host the Israeli team under its own flag, Culture Minister Miri Regev signed a deal for Israel to host its first ever International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Prix event Grand Prix event.

According to the “historic deal,” Israel will host one leg of the World Judo Tour in January 2019, and another following the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, opening the Olympic cycle before 2024, a statement from Regev’s office said.

“Today has made double history for us as we have won gold here in Abu Dhabi and our anthem has played and we have signed a contract to stage our first ever IJF Grand Prix in Israel. Everyone is invited to our Grand Prix including all Arabic countries and I hope you will all see that our country is a peaceful and loving nation with good food and good people,” Regev said at the signing ceremony with IJF President Marius Vizer and Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, center, presents a gold medal to Israeli Sagi Muki after his win at the International Judo Federation competition in Abu Dhabi, October 28, 2018. (International Judo Federation)

Regev said in her statement that the decision had come after two years of negotiations between the Israel Judo Association and the IJF.

Vizer said he wished “to congratulate Israel for their success here today and to congratulate them for their new Grand Prix event.”

Praising the first appearance of Israeli delegation participated in a Gulf state under its national flag — after the International Judo Federation warned UAE organizers the competition would be canceled unless all athletes were allowed to participate on an equal footing — Vizer said the competition was an example of the unifying nature of sport.

“We are able to send to the world a message of solitary, friendship and peace and I thank everyone involved in this achievement. We showed a nice example to the youth of the world in a moment that was not just more than a sport but more than judo and was a crucial moment in the world. I hope the unity between the two cultures, Muslim and Israeli culture is a start for a new era in the sport and later in the world, social, political, economical areas,” he said.

Israel’s national anthem was played at the judo tournament in Abu Dhabi for the first time, after one of its athletes won gold, in the latest milestones in Israel’s gradual rapprochement with some Arab states.

Muki beat Belgian competitor Matthias Casse to take first place in the under-81 kilogram category at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

Screen capture from video of Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev as the Israeli national anthem plays following a gold medal win at an international judo competition in Abu Dhabi, October 28, 2018. (International Judo Federation)

Following the medal distribution, the tournament presenter announced, in English, “Ladies and gentleman, please rise for the national anthem of Israel” after which the “Hatikva” melody began playing.

Muki, on the victor’s podium, and Regev, standing to one side with tournament officials, could be seen mouthing the words, with the Likud minister bursting into tears.

Regev’s presence in the United Arab Emirates capital marked the first time a minister from Israel attended a sports event in the Gulf, Israeli officials said.

Israeli athletes competing in international tournaments hosted by Arab countries have generally not been allowed to compete under their national flag, display national symbols on their uniforms or have their anthem played, despite protestations by Israel and international officials.

Last year, tournament organizers in Abu Dhabi banned the Israel’s flag and national anthem — a policy directed only at Israeli participants. Tal Flicker won a gold at the tournament, but the anthem was not played, so he sang it himself.

Three Israeli judokas won bronze medals on Saturday, the first day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, with Regev given the honor of awarding the medals for one of the categories.

Gili Cohen, Baruch Shmailov, and Timna Nelson Levy all finished third in their weight classes.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed