The setting; Egyptian athlete El Shehaby and Israeli athlete Sasson face each other on the judo mat in Rio. Sasson dominated El Shehaby after an automatic victory of two throws of El Shehaby. Stunned by his loss, El Shehaby lay on his back on the mat for a solid minute. Then as El Shehaby rose, Sasson extended to shake hands. However, El Shehaby rejected the handshake, turning away. He had to be forced back on the mat by the referee, where he did a quick bow, and then exited.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Islam El Shehaby is a decorated world champion, winning the world bronze in 2010 along with five world cup medals. He has also competed in three Olympics: 2008, 2012, and 2016. El Shehaby is a practicing Salafi Muslim, a conservative order of Sunni Islam that formed in the late 19th century.
Or Sasson is also a decorated world champion. Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Sasson has won a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympic games. In the 2015 European Games, he won a Silver medal. Sasson is Jewish.
El Shehaby was later reprimanded for his actions during this match. It is proper judo etiquette to bow or shake hands with your opponent. As a result the International Olympic Committee claimed that El Shehaby’s were violating "the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic Values." He was sent home before the closing ceremonies and following the incident El Shehaby announced he was retiring.
There could be more punishment for El Shehaby and Egyptian judo. This isn’t the first time an Egyptian has refused to shake hands with their opponent. Ramadan Darwish refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand in the 2011 Judo Grand Slam and the 2012 Judo Grand Prix. The International Olympic committee is continuing an ongoing investigation to sort out the matter and demanded that Egyptian athletes understand Olympic values before competing.
This incident also brings to light a bigger issue of the continuing hostility in Middle Eastern politics. It was made clear that there is still a tremendous amount of tension with politics and religion through out the region. While the Olympics strives to bring the world together with some friendly competition, it is going to take so much more to solve the hostility this region has toward one another.