Tepid BBC report on Lebanese Olympic team’s bigoted agitprop

On the morning of August 7th an item billed “Lebanon and Israel teams in bus dispute” appeared on the BBC News website’s homepage and Middle East page.

Olympics bus story on HP

The link led to a short report by BBC Sport which is more accurately headlined “Rio 2016 Olympics: Lebanese athletes refuse to travel with Israel team“.

“Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with the Israel team to get to Friday’s Rio Olympic Games opening ceremony, members of both teams said.

Lebanon and Israel are officially at war and have no diplomatic relations.

The incident happened as the Lebanon team sat on the bus waiting to head to the Maracana stadium, before demanding the Israeli athletes must not board.

Israel’s athletes insisted on doing so, but the two teams were eventually taken to the ceremony in different buses.”

Much of BBC Sport’s report appears to have been recycled from an article by AFP, including the spelling of the name of the head of the Lebanese delegation, named elsewhere as Salim al Haj Nakoula.

“Head of the Lebanese team Salim al-Haj Nicolas told AFP news agency he demanded that the door be closed on the Israeli team, but they “insisted on getting on”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Nakoula’s actions were lauded in Lebanon.

“Lebanese Minister of Youth and Sport Abdel Motaleb Hannawi told a Lebanese news site that this was not the first time Israel has attempted to embarrass a Lebanese delegation in this kind of circumstance. He praised the delegation’s behavior, Nakoula’s specifically. “His stance was principled and patriotic,” he said.

Nakoula became the hero of the day in Lebanon after the incident was publicized. The Al Mayadeen and Al-Manar news networks, both associated with Hezbollah, gave Nakoula praise, with the latter also interviewing him. Hezbollah supporters and officials praised him on social media, with one Al-Manar broadcaster tweeting, “The Israelis were sent away from the bus because normalization (with Israel) is not to be had in any form, and because the Lebanese identity (is that of) resistance. Be proud to be Lebanese.””

Neither were they informed that a similar incident occurred at the previous Olympic Games.

“The Lebanese judo team at the 2012 London Olympics refused to practice next to the Israeli one on Friday afternoon, and a makeshift barrier was erected to split their gym into two halves.”

The report also fails to note that no statement regarding the Lebanese team’s bigoted behaviour has been issued by the Olympic organising committee.

Biggest BBC blunders & bungles of 2012

With 2012 having not been one of its finest years, the BBC is probably rather relieved to see the back of it. But before we round off the year and ring in 2013, here’s an open thread for readers to tell us what they think were the BBC’s biggest blunders and bungles of 2012. 

Up near the top of my list – if only for the sheer arrogance of it – would have to be the conjuring trick which enabled the BBC Sports section to disappear an entire capital city on its Olympics web page, whilst simultaneously creating another. 

Commentator BBC Olympics

The BBC’s subsequent ‘correction’ was highly unsatisfactory too, despite it having received official notification from the Israeli government as to where the country’s capital is located.

Tell us in the comments below what you consider to be the ‘lowlight’ of BBC coverage of Israel and the Middle East in 2012.

Happy New Year!