Olympic Committee Raps Lebanese Delegation for Barring Israeli Athletes From Bus

At hearing called by International Olympic Committee, Lebanese delegation head says incident was a misunderstanding, but tells Lebanese newspaper he has the right to prevent another team from joining them.

The Lebanese national delegation march during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5, 2016.
Franck Fife, AFP

The International Olympic Committee reprimanded the head of the Lebanese delegation on Sunday after the Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with the Israeli team ahead of the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics on Friday.

The head of the Lebanese group physically blocked the Israeli athletes from boarding a shuttle meant to take both delegations to the ceremony, in what Israeli sailing coach Udi Gal called a 'diplomatic incident.'

Officials ended up organizing a seperate bus ride for the Israeli delegation.

During a hearing on the incident on Sunday, Lebanese delegation head Salim al-Haj Nakoula was warned that the IOC would not accept any other situations like the one that took place on Friday. 

Nakoula responded that the incident had been a misunderstanding. 

Speaking to a Lebanese newspaper however, Nakoula insisted that he had the right to prevent another team's athletes from joining them on the transport reserved for them.

"I asked the bus driver to close the door but the guide with the Israeli team prevented him from doing so," Nakoula told An-Nahar. "I then stood at the door of the bus to prevent the Israel team from entering and some of them tried to go in and pick up a fight."

Nakoula told the AP that it was "only a small problem."

"This problem is finished," he said by telephone. "We are here only for sports."