KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – World Sailing said Sunday it will investigate reports that two Israeli windsurfers and their coach have been refused visas to compete at the Youth Sailing World Championships in Langkawi, Malaysia, saying all international sailors should be allowed to compete.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin earlier told the Malay Mail Online website that the visa decision was "guided by the existing policy of the Malaysian government" which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
The Israel Sailing Association said windsurfers Yoav Omer and Noy Drihan and coach Meir Yaniv would not attend the event that begins Sunday because they had not received visas. Amir Gill, chairman of the Israel association, also told local media that Malaysia had placed "unacceptable" demands by forbidding athletes from carrying their country's flag or wearing any symbol on their attire and surfboards that showed their country of origin.
World Sailing president Carlo Croce said in a statement that a member of its executive was en route to Malaysia "to investigate this issue and is seeking clarification from the Malaysian Organizing Authority."
"World Sailing expects the organizing authority of its events to allow sailors from all nations to compete on an equal basis," Croce added in the statement. "This expectation is made clear in the bid process and is set out in the contractual documentation governing our events."
"As with all diplomatic issues this is quite a delicate matter. World Sailing is aware of the current commentary in the public arena, and have reason to believe that some of the comments may not be accurate or possibly based on misunderstandings."
The youth sailing worlds have been held for 44 years. The Malaysian event, which runs to Jan. 3, is expected to attract about 300 under-19 competitors.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson contributed to this story from San Diego, California.