Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson after their judo match at the Rio Games on Friday, drawing boos from the crowd at the Carioca Arena 2.
El Shehaby, 32, had been reportedly pressured by fans in social media not to show up for his scheduled fight with his Israeli opponent because it would shame Islam, but he decided not to withdraw from the match.
After Sasson had defeated El Shehaby and the two retook their places in front of the referee, Sasson bowed and approached El Shehaby to shake his hand but the Egyptian backed away.
El Shehaby and Sasson did not comment after the match.
Nicolas Messner, a spokesman for the International Judo Federation, said in fact judokas are not obligated to shake hands under IJF rules, only to bow, which El Shehaby did after he was called back.
“Nevertheless, after the Games the situation will be studied and analysed to see if further action must be taken,” he told Reuters.
Sasson will compete in the semi-finals of the +100kg category later on Friday.
A spokesman for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that sometimes athletes could not bring themselves to shake hands “for a number of reasons”.
“Things happen in the heat of the moment that are not acceptable and obviously we would remind all competitors of Olympic values,” Mark Adams told a news conference, adding that the spirit of toleration at the Games was exemplified by the athletes’ village, where competitors spend time socialising after competitions.
“We believe that the Olympic spirit should be about building bridges, never about erecting walls,” he said.