The Egyptian Sports Federation has decided to withdraw its team from the 2014 Short Course World Championships in Doha, Qatar, the Associated Press reported this morning. They are the third Middle East nation to withdraw a team from a Qatari-hosted World Championship, after Bahrain and the UAE pulled out of the men’s handball worlds that are to be held in January. As the AP points out, Egypt remains in the handball tournament.
Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, and Egypt are all members of the Arab League, and tensions have risen in the past year within that group over accusations from several Arab nations that Qatar has supported radical Islamist groups in the region.
One member of the Egyptian National Team told SwimSwam that while Egypt’s comments to the AP didn’t specifically address the political tension as a reason for withdrawal, that “both countries have been in a lot of conflicts over the past year.”
Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia have also recalled their ambassadors from Doha.
The International Olympic Committee rules forbid governments from interfering with the actions of Olympic federations (which the Egyptian Swimming Federation is under the umbrella of), and while the IOC hasn’t commented on the handball or swimming federations’ actions yet, they did suspend Gambia in mid-October for government interference of the National Olympic Committee’s operations.
The IOC is currently in the midst of another battle with Qatar over the timing of the next Winter Olympics and World Cup. After FIFA, soccer’s governing body, awarded its biggest event to Qatar, they realized that summer in Doha would not be hospitable for the tournament, and are instead exploring alternative dates that could include overlapping with the Winter Olympics,
Egyptian swimming has been improving since the country has returned to internal stabilization, which included a Youth Olympic Games gold in the 800 free by Akram Ahmed this summer. Several members of the team train and compete in the NCAA system in the United States, including Cal All-American Farida Osman and South Carolina standout Marwan el Kamash.