Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was left a bit red faced on Sunday when an Iranian athlete refused to shake her hand after she presented him with a silver medal in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday night for “cultural reasons.
Discus thrower Mehrdad Karam Zadeh finished second behind Briton Aled Davies in the F42-class discus on Sunday morning, and received his medal from the Duchess in the main stadium last night.
The Duchess was introduced to a huge cheer from a capacity crowd, but when she presented Zadeh with his medal it was noticeable that the 40 year-old athlete failed to shake her hand.
Bronze medallist Lezheng Wang and Davies both shook her hand after receiving their medals, with the Welshman exchanging words with the Duchess, who has been a regular spectator at the Paralympics.
Iranian Karam Zadeh did not shake hands with her. Pics/AFP, Getty images
The Iranian delegation in London were unavailable for comment when contacted, but they have told Games organisers that Zadeh’s actions were not politically motivated.
According to sources, the Iranian’s actions were based on gender with cultural convention preventing a man from shaking the hand of a woman.
The Iranians have said that had the medal been presented by a man Zadeh would have shaken his hand. Similarly, had the Duchess presented the medal to a female Iranian athlete they would not have hesitated to shake hands.
The ceremony was the first at which the Duchess of Cambridge presented medals. It was a ‘happy coincidence’ that the first recipient was British, her spokesman said.
A spokesman for St James’s Palace said the Duchess was aware that there would be no handshake, and considered it an honour to present the medals.
“Many male athletes from Islamic countries do not shake hands in public with women they are not related for cultural and religious reasons. The Duchess was informed in advance and was happy to accept his wishes. She considered it an honour to present the medals.”