An Israeli judoka champion who won a gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament was forced to quietly sing his national anthem to himself during the medal ceremony after organisers refused to play the ‘Hatikvah’ or raise the Israeli flag.
Tal Flicker, who is currently ranked world number one in the under 66kg division, took home a gold in the same category on Thursday.
But his achievement was marred when he had to look at the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) flag and listen to its anthem rather than his own because of a ban in the Gulf state on the display of Israeli symbols.
Mr Flicker, visibly upset, shifts from foot to foot as he holds a bunch of flowers on the podium. He then sings the ‘Hatikvah’ to himself, although his voice is drowned out by the IJF music.
In one widely shared clip, a clearly caught off-guard television commentator pauses before announcing that it is the IJF’s anthem which is about to be played, rather than Israel’s.
The 25-year-old judoka’s stoicism was widely praised both at home and internationally on social media.
“His victory has been amplified by his dignified response of class, respect, and sportsmanship,” one Twitter user wrote.
Fellow team member Gili Coren, who won bronze in the under 52g women’s category, also did not get to sing her own anthem.
Throughout the tournament the Israeli competitors were not allowed to wear Israeli symbols and the programme listed them as taking part on behalf of the IJF.
When asked by Israel’s Channel 2 news about the incident later, Mr Flicker said that “the anthem that they played of the world federation was just background noise. I was singing ‘Hatikvah’ from my heart.”
The athelete added he hadn’t had doubts about taking part in the UAE competition, and that winning medals was “the most important thing”.