Lebanese Delegation Refuses to Share Bus With Israeli Athletes at Rio Olympics

The Lebanese team barred the Israeli athletes from boarding the shuttle. An Israeli coach expresses 'shock' over the 'diplomatic incident.'

Neta Rivkin carries the Israeli flag during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5, 2016.
Matt Slocum, AP

The Lebanese delegation to the Rio Olympics barred Israeli athletes from boarding a bus the two teams were meant to take to the opening ceremony on Friday, an Israeli coach says.     

According to sailing coach Udi Gal, when the Lebanese team realized that it was slated to share the bus with Israeli athletes, it asked the driver to shut the door. 

Organizers then tried to split up the Israeli team and put the athletes on different shuttles, "something that is unacceptable for security and representation reasons," the coach said.

"We insisted that we board the bus designated for us, and if the Lebanese refuse [to share the shuttle], they should de-board," Gal said. 

A group photo shows the Israeli athletics squad to take part in the Rio Olympics during an official photoshoot in Ramat Gan, Israel, July 12, 2016.
Baz Ratner, Reuters

After the bus driver complied and opened the door, the head of the Lebanese team physically blocked the entrance to the bus. 

The head of the Lebanese team, Salim al-Haj Nicolas, told AFP he demanded that the door be closed on the Israeli team, but they “insisted on getting on,” the BBC reported.

A seperate bus ride was then organized for the Israeli delegation, "but the diplomatic incident already taken place. Shame!" Gal wrote.

The coach concludes his post:

"How could they let something like this happen on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony? Isn't this contrary to what the Olympics  stand for? ... I'm in shock from the incident."

In a video preceding the opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the games "celebrate the best of humanity" and appealed for an Olympic truce, calling on "all warring parties to lay down their weapons" during the two weeks of sporting achievement."

The Rio Olympics — South America's first — opened on Friday night in a packed Maracana Stadium. The ceremony started with a sobering message about global warming, followed by a kick-off by Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen to the tune of "Girl from Ipanema."

The Israeli delegation, the largest ever with 47 athletes competing in 17 sports, was led during the ceremony by athlete Neta Rivkin, a long-time dream of the rythmic gymnast.