Palestinian athletes will ‘represent a country, a history, a cause’ at the Paris Olympics

© Ben Stansall, AFP

Nearly six months into a deadly war that has ravaged Gaza, the Palestine Olympic Committee is battling against formidable odds to ensure its athletes take part in the Paris Games this summer. Its technical director Nader Jayousi tells FRANCE 24 his country’s delegation will bring a “message of peace” to the world and inspire Palestinian children “whose dreams have been shattered by bombs”.

Palestinian athletes have taken part in every Summer Olympics since they were first admitted to the Atlanta Games in 1996. Each participation has carried a special significance for residents of the Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian diaspora, giving the stateless people a venue in which to compete with the rest of the world.

Taking part in Paris will be all the more significant in the context of the war that has devastated most of the Gaza Strip and killed at least 33,000 people, according to health officials in the Hamas-held enclave, including some of the athletes who had set their sights on the Olympic Games this summer.

"To these tragedies must be added the destruction of infrastructure: the Yarmouk stadium, the Olympic Committee's offices in Gaza, and several other stadiums," he added. “If the war ended today, at least 70% of the Gazan population would be homeless, let alone practising a sport.”

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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