POSTED: November 5th 2010

Exclusive: What IOC support means to the Palestinians' Prime Minister

IOC president Jacques Rogge during his visit to the West Bank last month / lake images
IOC president Jacques Rogge during his visit to the West Bank last month / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/RAMALLAH: Whatever the outcome of the proposed ‘summit’ between Israeli and Palestinian sports leaders in Lausanne, there is no doubting the value of the message sent out by the recent visit paid by IOC president Jacques Rogge to the long-troubled region. That was underlined by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in’s exclusive interview.

How significant was the visit of Dr Rogge and a full IOC delegation last month?

On what we consider our home stretch to freedom it was very timely and coincided with a time when we have completed work on a number of sports installations around the country – though I would point out that we are working on development not only in youth and sport but in all sectors.

We are beginning to see possibilities, notwithstanding the challenges which lie ahead and the constraints on our capacity to develop. So it’s important when we host such a delegation which comes into contact with the reality of life here. They see that - but they also see promise, optimism, strong will, determination and hope.

Also, such visits send out a message to the world?

Of course. Look at the huge media coverage we received. That tells you something about how important this is viewed as an event for us.

Are you satisfied with the statements made by Dr Rogge about the freedom of movement of athletes?

He came to a football match in Ramallah and he could see the wall which divides us from East Jerusalem. But he is also aware of other kinds of constraints; such as on our athletes. Some in Jordan are unable to come to the West Bank, the same for some in Gaza.

This is part of the daily reality with which we have to contend. I say this not with resignation about the things that we Palestinians have to contend with but with every ounce of determination to overcome it.

People think that sometimes we’re too optimisic. I don’t think so. Just as we see the immense difficulties and challenges so we also see possibilities. The emergence of the strong push to improve the status quo in the youth and sport sector over the last couple of years is something people can see as something that’s capable of contributing.

But do you think he has real powers of persuasion?

We need all the help we can get and the strength and accountability of the office of the president of the IOC should count for something. It adds to the strong wave of opinion which has developed internationally in favour of removing restrictions, doing away with capricious constraints controlling regime that we live under from the Israeli occupation.

Definitely it’s important to our effort to mobilise international opinion in favour of bringing to an end this control regime - which will happen only when the occupation comes to an end. Nevertheless, until we get there, we see a great deal of advantage in such high-profile visits.

Do you not grow tired of seeing visits like this as a symbol?

All such activity is a symbol whether in Palestine or elsewhere but in the Palestinian context it goes beyond symbolism. These are actually things that we appreciate. Maybe, for another country, this would be just another visit but for us its one of a kind.

We can’t have enough of these symbols.

Keywords · Palestine · West Bank · IOC · Rogge · Fayyad

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