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Palestinian athletes invited to compete in Paris Olympics

The Palestine team at the opening ceremony in Tokyo, Japan on July 23, 2020
The Palestine team at the opening ceremony in Tokyo, Japan on July 23, 2020 – expect more of the same this summer - Michael Kappeler/Alamy Live News

Palestinian athletes will be invited to compete in the Paris Olympics this summer even if they fail to qualify.

Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said he expected six to eight Palestinians to compete. Qualification events for the Games, which start on July 26, are ongoing.

“We have made the clear commitment that even if no (Palestinian) athlete would qualify on the field of play ... then the National Olympic Committee of Palestine would benefit from invitations, like other national Olympic Committees who do not have a qualified athlete,” said Mr Bach.

Palestinian athletes have taken part in the Olympics since 1996, but the war in Gaza has led to the loss of life and infrastructure in sport. Olympic football coach Hani Al-Masdar and volleyball star Ibrahim Qusaya were both killed by airstrikes.

A man holds a sign saying "no Olympics for the genocidal, boycott Israel" at a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people, in Paris on March 30
A man holds a sign saying "no Olympics for the genocidal, boycott Israel" at a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people, in Paris on March 30 - Victoria Valdivia/AFP via Getty Images

Nader Jayousi, technical director of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, said the war had forced them to end a programme aimed at boosting the number of athletes at the Olympics.

One Palestinian has already qualified: Omar Ismail, in taekwondo.

Mr Bach dismissed suggestions that the IOC has treated Russia differently over its invasion of Ukraine than Israel and its war in Gaza.

“The situation between Israel and Palestine is completely different,” Mr Bach said.

Russia was suspended from many international sports after its invasion and its athletes have been banned from competing under the national flag at Paris 2024.

In order to take part in the Paris Games, they are also required to have never publicly supported the war against Ukraine and not be employed by the military or security services.

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