Israeli President Peres cancels London 2012 visit so as not to "desecrate Shabbat"
Thursday, 12 July 2012
July 12 - Shimon Peres, Israel's President, has been forced to cancel his visit to the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony on July 27 due to a lack of hotels near to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
Peres (pictured above), who will not drive or be driven to a hotel because it will be Sabbath when the Ceremony concludes, will not attend the Ceremony because he cannot walk to where he will be staying the night afterwards.
A statement from the Israeli President's office read: "Due to the fact that the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games is on Friday evening, and there are no hotels in walking distance of the Stadium, the President decided to cancel his visit and not desecrate Shabbat.
"The President wishes good luck to the Israeli athletes.
"The President is not elevated above anyone else and if there are rules that only athletes can sleep in the Olympic Village, we respect that."
The 88-year-old is the world's oldest head of state, but rules preclude anyone aside from athletes and officials staying in the Olympic Village, the only other alternative to walking to a hotel.
Ayelet Frisch, Peres' spokeswoman, said that this had not been an issue in Beijing four years' ago because, unlike in London, there was a hotel nearby.
The Opening Ceremony of the Games starts at 7.30pm GMT, which is an hour before Shabbat begins.
Once the day has begun religious Jews are forbidden from taking part in a number of activities, including using any form of electricity.
Although Peres is not religious, as the head of the world's only Jewish state, he did not want to be seen publicly ignoring Shabbat.
This year's Olympic and Paralympics are particularly poignant for Israel, coming 40 years after the tragedy at the 1972 Munich Games massacre.
Eleven members of the Israeli delegation at those Olympics were taken hostage and murdered by Palestinian terrorists, and there has been pressure for a minute's silence at London 2012 to honour their memory.
July 2012: Coe to hold "personal" memorial for Israeli Munich Olympics victims at London 2012 Opening
May 2012: Exclusive - Israel proposal to honour Munich 1972 murder victims rebuffed by IOC member
September 2011: Munich massacre memorial unveiled in New York