Indonesia said to fear it could lose World Beach Games over calls to bar Israel

Report says national government and sports federation are working to convince Bali’s governor to reconsider boycott of Israelis, but he won’t budge

Tourists sit at a restaurant on Jimbaran Beach in Bali, Indonesia on November 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
Tourists sit at a restaurant on Jimbaran Beach in Bali, Indonesia on November 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Senior Indonesian officials are reportedly concerned their country could be stripped of hosting the World Beach Games at Bali this summer over the local governor’s refusal to let Israeli athletes compete.

According to a report in the Sunday Times of London, top officials fear the Association of National Olympic Committees — which is organizing the tournament in August — could remove Indonesia as host if Bali Governor Wayan Koster will not end his boycott.

Koster and Ganjar Pranowo, who heads the nearby province of Central Java and is a candidate in the 2024 presidential elections, advocated banning Israel from the Under-20 World Cup that was slated to be held in Indonesia later this month, whereupon FIFA pulled the tournament from there and relocated it to Argentina.

Fearing a similar outcome, the British newspaper said Indonesia’s national government and sports federation were trying to negotiate with Koster to reconsider, but he will not budge.

“I remain consistent in refusing the Israeli team’s participation in the 2023 World Beach Games in Bali,” he was quoted as saying.

The head of the ANOC has so far dismissed calls to bar Israel as “noise in the media” and pointed to Indonesia’s pledge to grant entry to athletes from all qualifying countries.

“So far we have not been approached at all, so we continue to prepare as if nothing is happening and hopefully nothing is happening,” Gunilla Lindberg said.

Motorists commute past a poster for the Indonesia 2023 FIFA Under-20 World Cup football tournament in Jakarta on March 30, 2023 (BAY ISMOYO / AFP)

The Olympic Committee of Israel has said it is “looking forward” to taking part in the beach games at Bali.

“Sport is a bridge between people and nations and not a barrier. Therefore it is our responsibility as sports leaders to maintain this approach in light of the Olympic values,” the committee said last week.

Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations and support for the Palestinian cause is high in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. But Israeli delegations have been to Indonesia for sporting and diplomatic events before, including four Israelis who competed in the World Cycling Championship in Jakarta in February.

FIFA’s decision to pull the U-20 tournament from Indonesia was met with a mix of sadness and anger from many local soccer players, fans and pundits. Some of the archipelago nation’s soccer prodigies took to social media with fury and heartbreak last month after losing the chance to play in what FIFA bills as the “tournament of tomorrow’s superstars.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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