Iran’s Mohammad Alirezaei was drawn against Israel swimmer Tom Beeri in today’s 4th heat of the 100m breaststroke. However, according to team officials, Alirezaei fell ill before the event, and was taken to a hospital in Beijing.
Iranian athletes have always rejected competing alongside Israelis as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians and therefore faced disqualification on several occasions in international sport. However, the Iranian National Olympic Committee (INOC) had previously said that as there is “no face-to-face situation” in swimming there would be no problem in attending the competition. “Alirezaei swims in lane one and the representative of the Zionist regime in lane seven, so they will not face each other,” INOC secretary Ali Kafashian said on Friday.
Alirezaei was Iran’s only swimmer to qulify for the 2008 Olympics.
During the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iran’s judo world champion Arash Miresmaeili, one of the country’s biggest hopes for a gold medal, refused to compete against Ehud Vaks of Israel in the first round out of solidarity for the Palestinian cause.