Olympics chief says Palestinian athletes to compete in Paris even if they don’t qualify

International Olympics Committee head Thomas Bach says he expects delegation to number 6-8; dismisses comparisons between organization’s treatment of Russia, Israel

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks during an interview with AFP ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne on April 26, 2024. (Gabriel Monnet/AFP)
IOC President Thomas Bach speaks during an interview with AFP ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne on April 26, 2024. (Gabriel Monnet/AFP)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – 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.”

Hamas-led terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, murdering about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 hostages.

Youth gather at Paris City Hall where a Paris 2024 Olympic sign is displayed in Paris, March 5, 2024. (Michel Euler/AP)

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the war, but the number cannot be independently verified, and it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7. The army also says it has lost 261 troops since the beginning of the ground invasion.

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

Russia was suspended from many international sports after its unprompted 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 organizations.

A gendarme, a firefighter and a police officer walk by Paris 2024 Olympics mascots ‘the Phryges’ as they carry the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics flags into the Interior Ministry in Paris, on April 23, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/AFP)

“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.

“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.”

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