Palestinian athletes to be compete, be invited to Paris Olympics: IOC

Palestinian athletes to be compete, be invited to Paris Olympics: IOC
The International Olympic Committee's head said that Palestinian athletes would be invited to participate, regardless if they qualify or not.
3 min read
Six to eight Palestinian athletes will be competing at this summer's Paris Olympics [Getty/file photo]

Between six and eight Palestinian athletes are expected to compete at the Paris Olympics, with some set to be invited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) even if they fail to qualify, its head Thomas Bach said.

Bach told AFP on Friday that qualification events for the Paris Games, which start on July 26, were ongoing for a number of sports.

"But we have made the clear commitment that even if no (Palestinian) athlete would qualify on the field of play ... then the NOC (National Olympic Committee) of Palestine would benefit from invitations, like other national Olympic Committees who do not have a qualified athlete," he said in an interview at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He said he expected the Palestinian delegation to number "six to eight".

Bach said that the International Olympic Committee "from day one of the conflict" in Gaza had "supported in many different ways the athletes to allow them to take part in qualifications and to continue their training."

Israel has killed at least 34,388 Palestinians, mostly women and children, since the war began following a surprise Hamas attack on October 7. It also imposed a complete siege on the territory, depriving Gazans from water, food and fuel.

The territory has been completely devastated as a result of incessant strikes and bombings.

However, Bach dismissed suggestions the IOC has treated Russia differently over its invasion of Ukraine compared with Israel and its war in Gaza.

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.

The sanctions against Russia were a result of Moscow violating the "Olympic truce" in its invasion of Ukraine soon after the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022 and for annexing Ukrainian sports organisations.

"The situation between Israel and Palestine is completely different," Bach said.

He said he had been even-handed in his public statements on Ukraine, the Hamas attack on Israel and the "horrifying consequences" of the war in Gaza, where a famine is fast looming.

"From day one, we expressed how horrified we were, first on the seventh of October and then about the war and its horrifying consequences," Bach said.

"We have always been very clear as we have been with the Russian invasion in Ukraine."

Israel has been accused of carrying out war crimes and genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, in over six months of war.