Fasting Muslim athletes face Olympic hurdle of Ramadan
Avoiding food and water for around 16 hours a day would not normally be in the training manual for any successful athlete. But hundreds of competitors at London 2012 are getting set to bid for gold while doing just that.
Up to 3,000 Muslim sportsmen and women may have to make the challenging sacrifice because this year’s summer Olympic Games coincide with the festival of Ramadan.
Ramadan requires Muslims to observe a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, meaning no food or even water can pass their lips while the sun is up.
Although exceptions are made for young children, pregnant women and the sick, athletes competing in the 36 sports at London 2012 will for the most part not be exempt.
One of those competitors will be Algerian runner Mohamed-Khaled Belabbas, who will compete in the 3000m steeplechase event.
"I will not be disadvantaged”
For Belabbas, a practicing Muslim, respecting his religion is more important than sport. "I will fast like I always have. It will not be a novelty for me,” he said. The athlete believes he will not be disadvantaged because of Ramadan, but will simply feel more exhausted once he crosses the finish line.
But not all Muslims are as optimistic as Belabbas. As far back as 2006 the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) recognised that with Ramdan occurring around 11 days earlier in the calendar each year, there would be an overlap with the 2012 Olympics.
The IHRC and several countries including Turkey, Egypt and Morocco lobbied for a change to the scheduling of the Games so that Muslim athletes would not face a disadvantage.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to budge. The organisation reiterated this week that the 17-day festival sport was a secular event. (...)