London is to be the new host of the 2019 World Para-swimming Championships, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced, three months after Malaysia was stripped of its right to hold the games over its strong stance towards Israel.
In January Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that there is “no place for Israeli athletes in Malaysia,” while refusing to issue entry visas for the Israeli swimming team. The prime minister also stressed that, if in response to his stance the organisers decided to cancel the event, “they can do so”.
Some 600 swimmers from 60 countries had been expected to compete in the championships in the eastern state of Sarawak, with more than 160 titles to be won.
Despite pressure from the Israeli Olympic Committee to issue visas, Malaysia refused to budge stating that “the government will maintain its steadfast position regarding this issue as a means to protest against the continuous Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.”
Israel condemned the ban as “shameful” and said the decision was motivated by “rabid anti-Semitism”.
The IPC reacted by stripping Malaysia of the right to host the game which was scheduled for the end of July and early August while confirming that it was seeking to find an alternative venue.
IPC President Andrew Parsons announced that London would be the new venue and confirmed a change of date to September. In a statement he said: “I cannot thank the Mayor of London, UK Sport and British Swimming enough for their outstanding efforts stepping in to stage and support this Championships, a key Tokyo 2020 qualifier, at such short notice.”
Explaining the reason for the delay he said: “following the cancellation of Malaysia and the opening of a new bidding process it simply was not feasible to organise a new event for the end of July and early August.”