Israel’s judo delegation will hope to finally fly to Abu Dhabi later today after they missed out on their scheduled flight on Monday having been refused entry to Turkey to pick up their visas.
Their trip to the Gulf State for the Grand Slam event has already been shrouded in controversy after after they were told their athletes wouldn’t be able to have ‘ISR’ displayed on their uniform or have the Hatikvah played should an athlete win a gold medal.
The dozen athletes, together with team staff, were forced to spend seven hours at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday, after they were meant to board a flight to Istanbul to pick up their visas for Abu Dhabi. However, they were told they couldn’t fly to Turkey, with tournament organisers telling Moshe Ponte, chairman of the Israel Judo Association, the visas stated otherwise. Although the problem had been resolved an hour later, the flight the squad were meant to take to Turkey had already left, meaning they will look to travel to the tournament on Tuesday, via Jordan where they will now pick up their visas.
Ponte said: “We will not give up, even if we have to reach Abu Dhabi on foot. Now we have to fly to Amman to get visas there instead of flying to Istanbul as we planned. We are looking to change our tickets. We will arrive after 14 hours of waiting in Amman. We may arrive exhausted, but we will not give up.”
Oren Smadja, the national team coach said: “We’re like an elite army unit entering hostile territory without a flag on its uniform looking to complete a mission, we want to beat our opponents, pick up ranking points and move on.”
Ori Sasson, who won a bronze medal at last summer’s Rio Olympic Games, added: “This is an unfortunate situation, but we will do everything we can to win.
“I assume that we won’t have a chance to see the sights, but that is fine as we aren’t going there for a holiday. We will do what we are told, and if this is the way it has to be we will do what we need to in order to win.”