Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who sought refuge in Europe after he was ordered by Iran to deliberately lose the semi-final at the 2019 World Championships, arrived in Israel on Sunday for the Tel Aviv Grand Slam.
Mollaei, who will be representing Mongolia in the competition, was taken to a hotel to quarantine after his arrival while waiting for the result of his coronavirus test taken at Ben-Gurion Airport. The competition in Tel Aviv is taking place on February 18-20.
Mollaei, a 2018 world champion, was ordered by the Iranian authorities to intentionally lose the semi-final at the Tokyo 2019 World Championship to avoid a potential match in the finals against Israeli world champion Sagi Muki, leading the International Judo Federation (IJF) to indefinitely ban Iran from the competition.
הג'ודוקא האיראני הגולה סעיד מולאי עם נחיתתו בישראל: "אני מאוד שמח שבאתי לתחרות, תודות למארגנים. מאחל רק טוב ובטיחות לכל האנשים ולכל הישראלים"@lianwildau @YoavBorowitz
(צילום: איגוד הג'ודו) pic.twitter.com/nTtiVcWOwF
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 14, 2021
Moaellei criticized Iran’s refusal to compete against Israeli athletes and sought asylum in Germany after receiving death threats against him and his family. Germany agreed to grant Moaelli asylum in November 2019 and in December 2019 he was offered citizenship by Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga (himself the chairman of Mongolian Judo Federation), which he accepted.
The arrival of 500 athletes from 63 countries into the country while Israelis are still banned from entering the country except in the case of exceptional circumstances has aroused much public ire.
According to Moshe Ponte, the chairman of the Israel Judo Association, the 500 competitors will be strictly monitored and will be tested several times for the coronavirus prior to the competition. He told Kan News that every athlete and trainer is required to provide two negative coronavirus tests before being allowed on the four chartered planes to Israel from Paris and Istanbul.
They will be tested again for the coronavirus upon arrival in Israel and will be quarantined in hotels until the results are confirmed.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)