Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk during the 30-day month of Ramadan, which began Friday in most countries.
During long summer days in London, that translates into 18 hours of fasting - something that many Muslim athletes consider impossible to do without losing their competitive edge.
Many of the 3,500 or so Muslim athletes expected to compete at the London Olympics will keep eating as usual.
“I could not fast. I need all that stuff, like protein, carbs and minerals,” Egyptian kayaker Mustafa Saied told The Associated Press. “I can do it after Ramadan and Allah will accept it because there was an important reason.”
Some have looked for Islamic tenets that allow exemptions from fasting, such as for those traveling. Others decided to postpone fasting until after competitions, and some will compensate for the lost days with charity work or by donating to the poor.
“It’s impossible for us to fast Ramadan during the London Olympics,” said Yasser Hefny, an Egyptian modern pentathlete. “We have five disciplines to perform. We do a lot of effort during the whole day.”
The High Egyptian Islamic Council gave athletes a reprieve by announcing a fatwa, or religious edict, stating that Olympic athletes are not required to fast during coaching or competition.
Egyptian pentathlon coach Sherif al-Eryan said athletes have also sought guidance from a cleric before traveling to London and had decided not to fast during the games. Like other athletes, al-Erayn said, they will have their “full menu in an open buffet” in the athletes village.
“I guess there is no problem. Our athletes could never achieve anything if they fasted this year,” al-Eryan said. “They have religious permission for this. But it is necessary for them as Muslims to fast after the month of Ramadan for the days they had to eat during the Olympics.”
However, the officials and coaches will be fasting “as we’re not making as much effort as the athletes,” al-Eryan added.
The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar. The last time Ramadan started in mid-July was in 1980 during the Moscow Games.
I am forgetting how long a mid summer day in UK can be - sky stayed loomed with light - until like 9 or even 10PM? (Sunsets 9PM, rises 5AM as of now. But isn’t Ramadan about when moon pops up and goes away??? - Following lunar cycle but still/also determined by when sun is up???)