The drama keeps building in Dubai, with the news that Israeli doubles player Andy Ram may be in a similar position to Shahar Peer next week when the ATP arrives – i.e. not at the tournament. The ATP is “awaiting a decision” and meanwhile, the tournament organizers are offering up some explanation. I haven’t been able to find the full official statement from Dubai Duty Free, but here’s a long excerpt from The Times U.K.:
Feelings understandably remain very high among the Arabic residents of Dubai after the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed 1,300 Palestinians. Concerns were rife that local fans would have boycotted the event if Peer had played and she in turn would have been in danger.
“Public sentiment remains high in the Middle East and it is believed that Ms Peer’s presence would have antagonised our fans who have watched live television coverage of recent attacks in Gaza,” Salah Tahlak, the tournament director, said in an official statement. “Ms Peer personally witnessed protests against her at another tournament in New Zealand only a few weeks ago.
“Concern was raised about her well-being and her presence triggering similar protests. Given public sentiment, the entire tournament could have been boycotted by protesters.We do not wish to politicise sports, but we have to be sensitive to recent events in the region and not alienate or put at risk the players and the many tennis fans of different nationalities that we have here in the UAE.”
This is one of the reasons I love tennis – its international scope makes the sport a high-profile showcase for the big political and cultural issues of the day. We’ll see if any good comes of this.