Malaysia yet to let Israeli swimmers in for world championships in Sarawak

This is not the first time that Israeli athletes have encountered visa issues when seeking to participate in events in Malaysia. — Reuters pic
This is not the first time that Israeli athletes have encountered visa issues when seeking to participate in events in Malaysia. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Malaysia has not yet approved Israel’s Paralympics swimmers entry here for a crucial world championships event to be held in Kuching, Sarawak this July, according to news report.

Malaysia does not officially recognise Israel and has no diplomatic relations with the country. Israel is also one of only a handful of countries that Malaysians may not legally visit.

The Israel Paralympics Committee sought Malaysia’s approval for the swimming team’s entry in the past two months, with its directors reportedly attempting to get visas for the team by tapping Israel’s Sports and Culture Ministry Alex Gilady who is a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Israeli Olympic Committee chairman Nisim Sasportas said the panel was still trying to ensure the swimmers would be able to join the championships.

“For some time now, we have been trying to guarantee our participation in the world championships. In principle, everyone says that it will work out, but we have still not received an invitation or visas.

“We are continuing to apply pressure. We have letters of support from the International Paralympics Committee, the European Paralympics Committee and the Olympic Athletes Committee, and hope that they allow the athletes and their security entourage to participate,” he was quoted as saying by Israeli news portal Ynet.

According to Ynet, the July world championships in Kuching is crucial as the results will influence qualification for the 2020 Paralympics to be held in Tokyo.

This is not the first time that Israeli athletes have encountered visa issues when seeking to participate in global events abroad or particularly in Malaysia.

In December 2015, initial news reports said two Israeli champion windsurfers were unable to join an international sailing tournament in Langkawi as Malaysia did not grant them their visas.

World Sailing, the international body overseeing the sailing sport, later said Malaysia had granted entry provided certain undisclosed conditions were fulfilled.

Israel had later decided not to send its representatives to join the 2015 Youth Sailing World Championships, with Israel Sailing Association chairman Gili Amir then saying that the decision was due to Malaysia’s “unacceptable” demands such as not allowing the Israeli windsurfers to compete under the Israeli flag or wear any symbol identifying them as Israeli or even have their national anthem played if they win the gold medal.

The two windsurfers were reportedly winners in their respective categories during the championships’ 2014 edition.

In 2016, the International Table Tennis Federation warned that Malaysia would be at risk of having a world table tennis championships that it was hosting cancelled and being banned from holding any future world championships, if it denies visas to the Israeli team who were qualified to participate.

Israel’s Table Tennis Association later decided not to send its delegation to Malaysia due to security concerns.

Last November, a team that qualified for an e-sports tournament called the Dota 2 Kuala Lumpur Major with a prize money of US$1 million was forced to drop its Israeli teammate due to visa issues.

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