As the 2016 Olympics kicks off in Rio, Brazil, the “Palestine Chronicle Olympics Special” documents each member of the 6-member team that will represent Palestine in the largest delegation ever to participate in the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee invited Palestinian athletes to first compete in the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, as part of a program to include participants who do not meet the qualifying criteria.
Palestine hаѕ bееn recognized аѕ а member оf thе Olympic Council оf Asia (OCA) ѕіnсе 1986, аnd thе International Olympic Committee (IOC) ѕіnсе 1995.
Mary al-Atrash – Champion Swimmer
— هاشم 🍀 Hashem (@TheSbeitan) August 3, 2016
When Palestinian swimmer, Mary al-Atrash, dives into the pool at the Summer Olympics in Rio, she’s not aiming to bring home a medal.
A winning performance will mean telling the story of the Palestinian people and the difficulties they face, not only in preparing for the Games, but also living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“I’m very proud to be going to Rio. And to represent Palestine,” Atrash told CBC News. “I also have the responsibility of highlighting that we are living under great difficulties.”
Atrash is one of two swimmers competing at the Olympics.
— Derek Stoffel (@DerekStoffelCBC) August 3, 2016
Atrash swims in the 50-meter freestyle, but her best time of 29.91 seconds is more than four seconds slower than the 25.28 qualifying time needed to compete in the Olympics.
“It’s difficult because of the lack of resources for us here. It will be very difficult to win a medal,” Atrash said, referring to her life as an athlete in Palestine. There is no Olympic-sized swimming pool in the Palestinian territories, so Atrash practiced at the YMCA in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. The pool is 25 meters long, half the length of the facility she’ll compete in at Rio.
Most Palestinians are unable to travel into Israel, and Atrash has said, “Because of all the difficulties that Palestinians live under … it makes it harder to practice and compete in our sports.”
Over 11,000 athletes will compete at the games in Rio. Here are the ones you should definitely watch: https://t.co/eqN9XQhzKE
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) August 4, 2016
Beyond travel restrictions, Palestinians face checkpoints and a scarcity of services such as sanitation, and in some areas clean water.
Atrash’s coach, Mousa Nawawreh, has emphasized the importance of Palestinians to compete in the Olympics: “Our presence in any international event is important because it shows our ambition. It shows our strong will. ”
“It’s a good chance to represent Palestine, to tell the world that Palestine is there and that one day Palestine will be free,” said Palestinian sports journalist Umar Hammad. “To tell the world our story through sports, to tell the world our culture, our daily life.”
“There is a lot of pride in our team,” Hammad said. “Not to win medals, but to represent the Palestinian people.”
(PC, CBC News, Rio 2016 Olympic Games)