7 international grudge matches to watch in London

7 international grudge matches to watch in London

Those hoping for an Iran-Israel Judo showdown will be disappointed after a "critical digestive system infection" prevented Jahvaad Majoob — the only Iranian athlete scheduled to compete alongside an Israeli — from boarding the plane to London. Yet, from the North Korean flag mix up to the ongoing controversy over a Saudi Arabian judo fighter’s headscarf, those itching for some geopolitical proxy battles will have their fill. Here are another seven matches to watch:

Table Tennis: North Korea vs. South Korea

August 3, 2:00 pm EST

For big tension on a very small court, viewers should tune in to the first found of men’s team table tennis where North Korea will face off against its archenemy South Korea. The nations remain technically at war despite a July 27, 1953 armistice, and the demilitarized zone remains one of the most dangerous borders in the world with Pyongyang threatening to turn Seoul into a "sea of flames." In this match at least, paddles are certain to fly.

Lightweight Double Sculls: South China smackdown

July 29 5:40 am EST

Poor Germany is stuck in the middle of China, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea in the women’s lightweight double sculls. As the Asian nations squabble over islands in the East and South China Seas  and the potential for naval war looms, the title of best rower may mean more than just a medal.

Handball: Britain vs. Argentina

August 2, 11:15 am EST      

Despite insisting in February that her country would not boycott the games, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced this week she will not attend the opening ceremony. Her absence is a protest against Britain’s claims to the Falklands, which Argentine maintains at their rightful territory despite their military defeat in 1982. As the island nears a referendum to determine its political status, Argentinean and British Olympic teams will have the chance to fight it out on men’s handball court. If the losing country isn’t satisfied, it will get another chance — they’re scheduled to play in field hockey too.

Pair Rowing: Greece vs. Germany

July 28, 7:00 am EST

Blood pressure will be high as Greece’s Nikolaos Gkountoulas and Apostolos Gkountoulas race Germany’s Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta in the men’s pair rowing race. As debtor faces creditor, viewers should hope it’ll be a repeat of the 2012 Euro Cup. Team loyalty got political when creative German fans mocked the Greeks "Without Angie, you wouldn’t be here." Not to be beat, the Greeks struck low: "We’ll never pay you back. We’ll never pay you back." The question remains-if Greece wins, who gets the gold?

Soccer: U.S. vs. North Korea

July 31, 12:15 pm EST

Opponents on every issue ranging from human rights to nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea will face off in match 15 of the women’s group G. Though the United States won the FIFA 2008 Championship title after defeating North Korea in the final round, their 2010 quarterfinal losses prevented a rematch. It remains to be seen if young leader Kim Jong Un is as harsh as his dad when it comes to international soccer failure.

Fencing: China vs. Japan

August 5, 5:30 am EST

While Beijing and Tokyo diplomats have so far limited themselves to lobbing rhetorical barbs over the latest territorial row, fencers Kenta Chida, Ryo Miyake, Lei Sheng and Jianfei Ma will face off in the men’s team foil. Though fencing is lauded as a game of strategy, not force, the fighters’ long history is certainly bloody. 

Basketball: U.S. vs. China

August 5, 11:45 am EST

The U.S. women’s basketball team faces China in game 52. U.S. – Sino relations have begun to sour as the United States pivots its forces to Asia and populist rhetoric has  entered the U.S. presidential race. Bruised by an embarrassing 62-100 loss to the U.S. in May, seventh-ranked China is thirsty for revenge.