Olympics, Ramadan, the question of faith
Athletes of the Islamic faith have more than just their opposition to contend with in London as their holy month of Ramadan also coincides with the Games.
The annual ritual commenced on July 20th.
Most lay people are aware of the most prominent of its practices, which is the abstaining from sustenance of food and water during daylight hours.
However, the basic principles also require followers to abstain from any practice of self indulgence including physical desires or anything where you may gain benefit from another person to their detriment. Basically, the principle is to be pure in thought as well as deed.
Considering how much scientific research goes into an athlete’s nutrition and hydration these days, the fasting period for Ramadan must surely present Muslim athletes with a huge dilemma.
A study was conducted in 2008 by Rashid Aziz, Performance Physiology Unit, Singapore Sports Institute, on how much the fasting effective the athlete’s performance.
It was found there was only minimal impact on the short duration athletes such as sprinters but definite effects on any event of longer duration which stands to reason.
Of course, weather conditions play a huge part as well and the milder climes of London may be a reprieve in this case.
The conflict of devout faith is nothing knew to sport and the Olympics. The most famous example was in 1924 when devout Christian, Eric Liddell withdrew from the heats of the 100 metres because they were run on a Sunday, his Sabbath. The story was immortalised in the Academy Award wining film, Chariots of Fire.
Also, British triple jump world record holder Jonathon Edwards missed the 1991 world championships for the same reason. He later relented and went on to break the world record twice in 1995 in Gothenburg during the world championships.
Some Muslim athletes perhaps may chose to defer the fasting practice until after their event.
Al-Azhar scholar Abdel-Moeti Bayoumi said, “Muslim athletes should fast, but they could opt out if fasting imposes ‘extreme difficulties’ when they compete.
“The decision is between the athlete and God in the end.”
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