Imam Ali KhameneiIranLeaders of UmmahMiddle East

“Champions teach resistance, hope and exuberance”

The following is the full text of a speech delivered on September 18, 2021 by Imam Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with Olympians and Paralympians of 2020 Tokyo Games.

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

All praise is due to God, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings be upon our Master Muhammad, and upon his pure household, and may God curse all their enemies

You are all very welcome. I feel happy and proud to see you. Winning sports competitions, especially at the international level, carries an important message. That message is the message of capability, vitality, effort and willpower. In other words, everyone feels that this person who was able to become a champion and stand on the platform of championship has shown firm determination, has realized his potential and has given a sense of vitality to society. This is the important message of championship on the international sports scene. In fact, champions are teachers of endurance, hope and vitality.

You prove with your championship that seemingly impossible things are actually possible. This is a very important achievement for our country. This message is very valuable for our era. Many organizations are busy scheming and working to take away hope and vitality from Iranian youth and to make them hopeless and frustrated. In such an atmosphere, you inject this message of hope into the whole of society. This is very valuable.

If I issue short messages following the various championships of our athletes, you know that I do it from the bottom of my heart because I appreciate your endeavors. Well, many of you who were able to conquer the world platforms and raise the flag of your country in front of the eyes of all people in the world had very limited facilities and few resources – especially in some parts of the country, athletes have very limited facilities. However, your aspirations were lofty, your will was strong and your determination was firm. This is a message for the youth of the country and as I said, it thwarts the efforts of those who want to take away hope and create an atmosphere of despair in the country.

Of course, we should thank God the Exalted that this championship and creation of hope is not only in the field of sports. We have the same performance in the area of science, technology and literature. Great work is being done in the country. One of the duties of our officials is to portray these achievements honestly and genuinely. Well, this is not being done properly. We have many accomplishments in the arena of science, literature, technology, art and various other arenas.

One thing about sports championships is that championships and medals, like many other things, have right and wrong kinds and healthy and unhealthy versions. Some championships or medals are not healthy, rather they are unhealthy and therefore, they are not valuable. You have seen many examples of this in the world ranging from unfair refereeing, political under-the-table advantages given to some countries, and bribery – things that have taken place in some international sports arenas – to illegal things that an athlete might do such as doping. Other examples include winning medals by betraying one’s country and one’s own values. Such medals are not valuable at all. Such championships are useless. These are examples of anti-values. Such championships are not ones that we could attach value to.

You, on the other hand, displayed valuable scenes. You have been able to present high human values both in this year’s international arena and in some previous arenas. I am talking about what I saw on television – as far as I had the opportunity, or according to the things that I heard because I was not able to see all competitions myself, but I was informed of them by others.

The moral and chivalrous behavior that you showed along with spirituality – naming our sports caravans after martyrs, and especially after Martyr Soleimani – is a very valuable course of action. Moreover, some athletes mentioned particular martyrs, saying that they wished to offer their medals to them. These are very valuable. Also, our athletes used the keffiyeh as a symbol of sacrifice and resistance and they prostrated on it. These are our values.

These courses of action spread spirituality at the level of world public opinion and global sentiment, which is very valuable. The hijab of women athletes, which our dear lady mentioned, is really a great value. Raising the flag of the country by a gold-winning lady wearing chador, displaying the Iranian women’s clothing before the eyes of the whole world, and seeing the scenes of expressing love and affection for the beloved flag of Iran and shedding tears of joy, tears of passion while the flag is being raised as well as the scenes of praying, of hugging the defeated opponent, of the volleyball team honoring the mother of Martyr Babaee – I paid my respects to this honorable family many years ago and went to their home. I know the late Babaee and this lady- they are the manifestation of Islamic and revolutionary values. These courses of action introduce Iran.

Championship sports are valuable when they show the identity of a nation. Those who use hired and purchased athletes cannot show the identity of their nation. They hire an athlete from another place, from another country and give him money to come and play sports for their national team, but such athletes cannot show the identity of a nation. You showed the identity of the Iranian nation with these actions. You showed that there is chivalry and there is spirituality.

Our women athletes at these games – and in previous games as well – proved that Islamic hijab is not an obstacle to progress, as we have proved this in the arena of politics, science and management. In the field of sports too, you proved that hijab does not prevent women from shining, contrary to the propaganda of the enemies and those who were deceived by them and who would fabricate things about hijab. This hijab of yours also inspired the women of other Muslim countries. I have heard that over these years, women athletes from more than ten Muslim countries have appeared in the international arena with hijab. This did not use to be common. It was you who started it. Iranian women champions and athletes did this and paved the way for others.

Well, an important point about international sports is the non-recognition of the criminal Zionist regime. This is a very important issue. The ruthless, genocidal and illegitimate regime is trying to gain legitimacy for itself by participating in international sports arenas. To do this, it uses sports fields, and arrogant powers and their cohorts also help and support it. I urge you – both the honorable sports officials and the athletes themselves – not to be passive in any way. You should not be passive in any way. Of course, they take counter-measures. It is the duty of the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the legal organizations to protect athletes through legal means and diplomacy and to prevent them from being oppressed. No honorable, freethinking athlete allows him/herself to shake hands with a representative of the criminal Zionist regime for a mere medal and to recognize that regime by doing so.

This is not unprecedented. Now they are creating uproar in the case of the Zionist regime, but in the past, the former apartheid regime in South Africa used to receive the same treatment. Many athletes around the world did not compete with their athletes. That regime was destroyed. This one too will be destroyed and annihilated. Therefore, it is a very important issue for our organizations to protect the rights of Iranian athletes and even those of non-Iranian athletes who have been disqualified for not having competed against the Zionist regime – like the Algerian athlete this time. They should support them.

Another point that I have already discussed at length is the issue of raising the quality of our international sports. You should focus on sending athletes in medal-winning fields – we have very good talent in some sports and we win many medals in them. You should also focus on athletes who are likely to win a medal. In other words, you should really dispatch a quality national team – comprised of athletes in international sports. The more you reduce quantity, the better it will be. The capacity of our Paralympic team this year was much less than last time, but they won many medals and were able to perform well. They paid a little more attention to the issue of quality. You should pursue this and this is a point that I think is important.

An important responsibility of sports organizations is to improve our ranking in the Olympics. Now they pointed out that we are in the top quarter, but Iran is a resourceful country. Therefore, the higher our ranking, the better it is. We were ranked 27th- a good ranking for our dear country is better and higher than this. You should plan for this so that, God willing, you can raise the country’s ranking. This year, of course, the Paralympic rankings were good, but not higher than in previous years – this time they were thirteenth, I think they came eleventh in previous games, according to what I remember. The performance was good anyway. You should pursue this task as much as you can.

One thing to keep in mind is to support sports equipment manufacturers in the country. I heard that this year, several countries used sportswear, which was a product of our country. This Iranian brand shone in the world. Well, in doing so, they were able to break the cliché monopoly of some international brands. This is very valuable. You must support such endeavors. You should support this manufacturer and you should also try to produce other pieces of sports equipment in the country. Just as you were able to achieve this here in the case of sportswear, you will probably be successful in the case of sports equipment.

The next point is about attaching significance to original Iranian sports. I have emphasized it many times in the past. For example, chowgan [polo] is an Iranian sport. It is basically ours, but others are practicing it. We are practicing it very little. That is while chowgan is yours and such sports can be useful in terms of attracting tourists and the like. Such sports are very good. Another point is the use of Iranian coaches, which was mentioned by this dear brother of ours. One of the recommendations that I always offer is to use Iranian coaches as much as possible. We ask God the Exalted to make you successful and to keep you healthy.

One of the main points in the statements of the gentlemen at the meeting was that in terms of employment and livelihood problems, these champions who are suffering from problems like this should be taken care of in the true sense of the word. This means that sporting justice must be considered everywhere, both geographically and in terms of the type of sport, and this justice should be administered better than today.

I hope that God the Exalted will preserve you. You brought honor and glory to your country. I hope that God will make you proud and honored as well. I also hope that our dear disabled war veterans will have less physical problems, that they will overcome these problems, and that they will be able to shine more brightly, God willing, as they have shone until today.

Greetings be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings

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