The Israeli flag wasn’t raised at the World Swimming Championships in Qatar that ended this week — no Israeli athletes reached the medals stand.
But the blue-and-white Magen David was evident at the short-course competition in Doha, the country’s capital.
Unlike last year, when the Israeli flag was erased from computer graphics on the official state broadcast of the races, replaced by a totally white flag (resulting in a reprimand from the international swimming federation), the complete two-colored flag appeared on Qatar TV this year. It was a faint image, but a breakthrough nonetheless for the Arab nation that does not have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Israeli Guy Barnea, after his first-place finish in the men’s 200-meter butterfly stroke qualifying heat, questioned in a Facebook post, “What’s missing from the picture?” He said Qatar TV showed only a plain white banner with two blue stripes next to his image. Barnea removed the post, which was carried by social media, after a reporter for Israel’s Channel 1 showed that the broadcast had included a faint Star of David and the initials ISR, as well as a clearer Israeli flag next to Barnea’s name.
“The controversy that wasn’t,” reported Haaretz.
Swimmers like Yakov Toumarkin, above, who set an Israeli record in the 200-meter individual medley, wore their usual cap that features the Israeli flag on the side.
“Setting a new national record was the target we set for all our swimmers,” coach Leonid Kaufman told the Jerusalem Post.
Four Israelis qualified for their event finals, including backstroker David Gomberg, who set an Israeli record in the 200-meter backstroke.