The Rio Olympics are in full swing and athletes from around the world are vying for the glory that comes along with winning an Olympic gold medal. The games bring people from around the world together despite the differences in their beliefs. They celebrate athletic excellence while promoting friendship and mutual respect among the participants.
It’s every athlete’s dream to compete in the games. They work all their lives to be able to get a chance to prove themselves on the global stage. But there are some that are still tied to the shackles of hate and intolerance, the shackles that don’t let them pursue their dreams.
One such athlete is the Syrian boxer who didn’t even agree to compete in the qualifying rounds because of a simple and twisted reason. He was selected to face an Israeli contender. The boxer, named Ala Ghasoun, chose to bow out of the contest, against Israel’s Artium Musley, rather than compete in the qualifying rounds that would have brought him a step closer to the ultimate dream—competing in the Olympics.
“I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people,” said Ghasoun. “If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel.”
There are even reports that the decision to back out of the competition wasn’t his. Instead, he was pressurized by the Syrian authorities. According to Isa Nassar, head of the Syrian Boxing Association, “Ghasoun was expected to perform very well in the championship, because he is one of the best Syrian boxers. However, his love and loyalty to Syria and insistence on his principles were more important than winning the tournament.”
It’s interesting that they would use the word “love” to describe the decision. Because whatever the cause of this decision was, it was not made out of love.