Evere since Adam was a boy the argument has raged that Politics should be kept out of sport, even thought sport is remarkably political. In the modern era more so than when Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave their Black Power salute and wore no shoes at the medal ceremony at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 does sport give athletes with strong moral or political beliefs a platform on which to promote their message.
Over the weekend a story broke that a Tunisian swimmer Taqi Murabit had withdrawn because he would not share the pool in his heat with an Israeli swimmer, who is a member of the Israeli Air Force which is constantly bombing neighbouring Palestine. The story turned out to be a hoax, the swimmer whose name is in fact Taki Mrbat was actually disqualified in the 400m Individual medley for a technical violation. Violations punishable by disqualification in swimming include not observing the required strokes during the medley (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) and exceeding the underwater distance limit in the freestyle section, among other violations. He will now compete in the 200m Individual Medley.
The question is what impact would his actions have had? The chances are there are many around the world may not have even heard of the hoax story, that could be because their journalists checked before running it, or it could have been a story they felt had little or no impact. Many who believed it to be genuine stated that he should have competed and when he won dedicated his victory to the Palestinian people.
That would have been great in principle but unlike Smith and Carlos, Mr Mrbat is unlikely to win gold, silver or bronze, so it may well have been his best chance to make a stand.
It is interesting that even though no such protest was made it has provoked so much dialogue and the story has gone viral. Maybe it shows that people believe athletes should stand up for things they believe in and use the platforms they have, maybe it even send a message to World leaders that what is happening in that part of the world must stop.
There is no definite right or wrong, and as sport is no longer the pure competition that Pierre de Coubertin believed it to be when he set up the modern Olympic Games, why shouldn’t athletes speak out after all the major Brands have already stolen the Games to convey their message. One thing stat is for sure is the power of social media!