Rome hosts Israel and Palestine to promote peace through sport
LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications
TAMPA/ROME, Apr 21: The leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian national Olympic committees were honored in Rome today with a “Sport for Peace” concert in the Eternal City.
Palestinian NOC President Major General Jibril Rajoub, together with Israeli NOC head Zvi Varshaviak and secretary general Efraim Zinger were together for the first time following the January 20th meeting in Lausanne Switzerland at the IOC headquarters.
IOC vice-president Mario Pescante said, “All roads lead to Rome and this time we have the opportunity to see two men striving for peace in the capitol.
"There's still some difficulties, but we will return to Israel and Palestine in the coming weeks and we'll solve the problem, I am optimistic,” he said.
The event coincides with the celebrations of the 2764th birthday of Rome and Mayor Gianni Alemanno took the occasion to present to the two NOCs the “Lupa Capitolina”, the Capitoline Wolf, the famous symbol of the city. It was also the symbol of the Rome 1960 Olympics.
Alemanno said, “This is a very important step for the committees to grow closer and for us it is a great honor to present them the Capitoline Wolf. Sport is an important message above all for the young, as it teaches them not to give up their values but that they can compete without hatred.”
“We hope this is a message not only for Rome but for all the Mediterranean.”
Efraim Zinger, secretary general of the Israeli NOC, said, “We are the third delegation to receive this award, so for us it is a great honor. Pescante has always worked hard to bring people together, not only in the Mediterranean, but around the world.”
General Jibril Rajoub brought up another very important issue, “We want to allow the Palestinian officials and athletes to be able to move freely. Their free circulation needs to be assured, fundamental rights that the Israeli athletes already have, just like all the other athletes around the world. We are ready to ensure peace in the Middle East.”
Both NOCs are also seeking inclusion to participate in the Mediterranean Games.
Pescante said, “It's a battle that has been going on for nearly 20 years, it is not very optimistic. Someone will take my place and continue the pursuit, I did not succeed for the Games of Bari, nor for those of Pescara. In a few days I will be in Istanbul to talk about my personal experiences."
The next edition of the Mediterranean Games will be held in Mersin, Turkey in 2013. The edition was set to be held in Volos, Greece however it was withdrawn due to negligence on behalf of the organizers to meet the requirements of the host city contract.
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