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Is World Sailing Losing Faith Of Members Over Malaysia Debacle?

6th January 2016
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#ISAF - Can sailing's world governing body be trusted to put athletes' safety first?

That's the concern coming from many corners of the sailing community after it emerged that the ISAF, recently rebranded as World Sailing, was aware of Malaysia's exclusion of Israeli sailors from the recent Youth Worlds from the outset, via a damning report from Sail World.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, World Sailing blamed "delays in communication" by both Israeli and Malaysian officials over the situation that saw Israel's youth team – which included two world champion windsurfers, one of them a defending Youth Worlds RS:X Boys champ – withdraw from the competition on 24 December.

Israel says it acted after failing to receive the necessary visas from Malaysian authorities, with whom it has no diplomatic ties, with just days to go before the competition began.

The accusation comes in the wake of "conditions" under which they were allegedly granted entry to Malaysia, with reports that the team's detachment of bodyguards had been refused clearance on security grounds.

Israeli sports teams compete internationally under armed protection since the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972 in which 11 athletes were taken hostage and killed.

The situation took on a different dimension when Malaysia's Minister of Youth and Sport was reported as saying that the exclusion of Israeli sailors was in fact a political move.

As Richard Gladwell writes for Sail World, delays in issuing visas appear to be a regular tactic against Israeli athletes on the world stage, just weeks after a Laser Radial sailor missed valuable practice days when his visa for November's ISAF Worlds in Oman arrived late.

What's more, minutes from ISAF meetings in the lead-up to the 2015 Youth Worlds show that concerns over Israel's participation in Malaysia were raised as soon as Langkawi was selected as the venue back in 2011.

World Sailing, which lost its CEO Peter Sowery last month after just half a year in the top job, is now being lambasted for claiming surprise over an issue that was tabled at a point of concern many years ago – and for sitting on the fence in the subsequent dispute between Israeli and Malaysian officials.

Those complaints from the sailing community are reflected in dismay at the erstwhile ISAF's handling of the serious pollution issues in Guanabara Bay, the sailing venue for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio.

Despite assurances from the sailing body that steps were being taken "to ensure the health and safety of all athletes", there was still a 7% illness rate among competitors at August's test event.

And recent findings by the Associated Press claim that sailors in Rio who ingest just three teaspoons of water from Guanabara Bay's Olympic courses, even some distance offshore, have a 99% chance of contracting a virus.

These issues are leading a growing number to question whether World Sailing is really putting sailors ahead of diplomatic entanglements.

Do you share those concerns? Let us know in the comments below.

Published in World Sailing
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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