POSTED: October 4th 2010
InDepth

Palestinian sport looks to Rogge for IOC message to scale the wall

Just a reminder . . . to Jacques Rogge of his own promise - as displayed on a banner in the Al-Ram stadium / lake images
Just a reminder . . . to Jacques Rogge of his own promise - as displayed on a banner in the Al-Ram stadium / lake images

Unorthodox but the sentiment is clear on this hoarding in the Faisal Husseini stadium / lake images
Unorthodox but the sentiment is clear on this hoarding in the Faisal Husseini stadium / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE in Ramallah / Sports Features Communications

WEST BANK, Oct 04: Jacques Rogge, as he steps on to the red carpet awaiting him Tuesday afternoon at the Al-Ram stadium, should turn around and walk 100 metres back up the gentle, dusty incline to the road.

Across it he will be faced by a long grey wall. He can look left and he can look right but he cannot see where the wall ends. That is, in itself, a metaphor for the political, territorial and statehood dispute which has set Israelis against Palestinians.

Beyond the wall lies East Jerusalem. But the president of the International Olympic Committee will be in Palestine, the Occupied Territory of the West Bank.

The ostensible reason for his first official visit is to lay the foundation stone for the new headquarters of the Palestinian National Olympic Committee here in Ramallah, his hosts’ de facto capital (though even that commands political stresses all its own).

Travel restrictions

Those hosts, however, hope Rogge will take the opportunity to urge the Israeli government to relax the apparently arbitrary nature of travel restrictions which hinder and/or prevent Palestinian sportsmen and women competing not only internationally but even within their own territories.

Rogge knows all about such hindrances: it’s taken delicate negotiations, right up to these last hours, before the Israelis would countenance various Arab members of the Belgian’s 15-strong IOC party flying in with him to the West Bank from the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Here is what National Olympic Committee president Jibril Rajoub describes as the “other dimension” to Rogge’s visit. Rajoub says: “The IOC should intervene, should say something . . . then I hope that others, in particular the Israelis, will understand this past of the IOC mission here and the suffering of the Palestinian athletes.”

Palestine has been present at the Olympics, albeit with delegations whose membership could be counted on the fingers of one hand, since 1996 in Atlanta. Hence the issue of its statehood is already history for Rogge and his Olympic movement.

Sport is noted for its ability to break down barriers of race, religion and politics. But, as he looks back from the entrance to the Faisal Husseini Stadium, Rogge may ponder what it needs to break down not so much a barrier . . . but a fortified wall.


Keywords · Rogge · International Olympic Committee · IOC · Palestine · Occupied Territories · West Bank · Ramallah


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