In yet another shocking act of mixing politics with sport, the UAE Athletics Federation has decided not to send their athletes to the Asian Athletics Championships, which will begin in Doha tomorrow.
What is surprising is that while UAE decided to deprive their athletes of some top-quality international action, it has no qualms about fielding one of its officials, Nasser al-Maamari, to contest the elections of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA), which will be held in Doha today.
Today’s AAA Congress will hold elections for the president, one senior vice-president, five vice-presidents, 11 Council members including three women, besides members of various committees, for the four-year term of 2019-2023.
At a time when Asia’s best athletes will take to the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Stadium to compete for as many as 186 medals across various track and field disciplines, the Emirati athletes will lose out on valuable preparation for the IAAF World Athletics Championships, which will also be hosted at the same Doha venue.
Asian Athletics Association president and IAAF vice-president Dahlan al-Hamad slammed the decision, saying it was a strange and unacceptable approach which shows the UAE is only interested in politics.
He said: “How can Asia vote for such a strange approach, whatever the justifications and reasoning might be, as they claim that the reason is the non-approval of the UAE Foreign Ministry. This is not acceptable and contradicts the rules and regulations of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as well as the AAA.”
He stressed that depriving the UAE athletes from taking part in the championships is a clear violation of the international agreements and regulations in sports. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, who are also parties to the unjust blockade of Qatar, have, however, confirmed the participation of their athletes at the Asian championships.
He said out that the AAA has officially notified the IAAF on the non-participation of UAE athletes and urged the world body to take the necessary steps, reiterating that there is no justification for mixing politics with sports.
Al-Hamad held a few Asian federations accountable, saying they were being used by the blockading countries at the elections.
He said: “How can a country that bans its sportsmen from coming to Qatar, look to get votes to lead the AAA? It is a very regrettable matter.”
UAE has a history of mixing sports with politics in some really reprehensible ways. Qatar’s Asian Cup football victory in the UAE earlier this year saw shocking scenes of Emirati fans throwing footwear on to the pitch during their country’s semi-final loss at the hands of eventual champions Qatar.
Even before the tournament had started, UAE barred journalists from Qatar even though they were travelling on valid visas.
Asian Athletics Association president Dahlan al-Hamad speaks at the opening of the IAAF Heritage World Athletics Champions Exhibition in Doha on Thursday. (Karim Jaafar/IAAF)