Palestinians banking on wildcards for Paris Olympics

Published June 13, 2024
Palestinian Olympic Committee chief Jibril Rajoub holds a news conference to update the media about challenges facing Palestinian sports ahead of the Paris Olympics, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 12. — Reuters
Palestinian Olympic Committee chief Jibril Rajoub holds a news conference to update the media about challenges facing Palestinian sports ahead of the Paris Olympics, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 12. — Reuters

RAMALLAH: The majority of Palestinian Olympic hopefuls are counting on wildcards from the International Olympic Committee to take part in the Paris Games amid the ongoing fighting in Gaza, Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, said on Wednesday.

One Palestinian athlete — in taekwondo — has qualified in his own right while others are training to meet the IOC standards in their sports to have priority for wildcards.

Wildcards are part of the IOC’s universality rule for all national Olympic committees to be present at the Games. The Paris Olympics starts on July 26.

“We have one athlete — taekwondo — who has already qualified,” Rajoub told a press conference. “We will have [a] minimum 6-8 [athletes].” He said three athletes would likely be from Gaza, including one or two women.

“We have other opportunities in judo, boxing, weightlifting and swimming. They are all outside Palestine now,” he said. “They are holding training around the world in some [countries] who took us in as guests.”

Rajoub said since the start of the conflict in October 2023, more than 300 athletes, referees and sports officials had been killed and all sports facilities in Gaza demolished.

“There are hundreds more under rubble and hundreds under the occupation oppression,” he said. “We are oppressed and violated by the other side. All Palestinians are subjected to these oppressions,” he said.

By Israel’s count, more than 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage in the October 7 cross-border attacks by Hamas which sparked a massive military retaliation in Gaza, that has since killed over 37,000 people, by Palestinian tallies, almost all of them Palestinians.

Rajoub said Palestinian athletes had been given support by Arab states, including Kuwait, Qatar, Libya and Egypt among others, to allow training in those countries.

“At the Games in Paris we will be present we will be representing Palestine in this amazing global event,” Rajoub said.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2024

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