By Brian Oliver
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Angry Iranian sports fans have deluged the International Weightlifting Federation with more than 1.6 million online comments, many of them abusive, after the country’s biggest star failed to win a medal in Rio.
The IWF website was hacked Aug. 17 and has been underattack since then. Some news items have disappeared, including a report of the men’s super-heavyweight contest at +105kg.
In that final weightlifting event of Rio 2016, riot police were put on standby about 50 meters away from the stage after furious Iranian coaches illegally entered the field of play area to question a decision by the jury.
The Iranian favorite, Behdad Salimikordasiabi, broke a world record in the first part of the competition, the snatch.
Salimi, as he is known, then failed to register a lift in the clean and jerk. His first attempt was a fail and his second, after being cleared by judges, was overruled unanimously by the jury of five who decided Salimi’s left arm was not completely straight.
After he failed with his third attempt the 170kg Salimi was reduced to tears. His coaches claimed there had been “a conspiracy” against Iran.
Iranian fans booed the gold medalist from Georgia, Lasha Talakhadze, who broke another world record, held by another Iranian, Hossein Rezazadeh, with his last lift.
“Our enemies were on the jury,” said Sajjad Anoushiravani, Iran’s head coach. “It’s obvious they took the medal from Salimi.”
Anoushiravani directed his anger at the one Iraqi on the jury. Iran failed with an official appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which threw out their case on Sunday.
Within 24 hours of the medal ceremony the IWF’s Instagram page had received nearly 300,000 comments, either in support of Salimi or abusing the IWF.
The comments have kept coming in, and by Sunday evening had passed 1.6 million, according to the federation’s Instagram page.
A spokesperson for the IWF told Reuters: “The reaction has been a surprise to us and upsetting. We have been under constant attack since the competition ended. It’s so sad.”
The executive board of the IWF will discuss the fallout, and possible sanctions against Iran, at a meeting in late September.
(Editing by Bill Rigby)