(photo credit: Associated Press)
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) – Israeli and Palestinian Olympic officials met
Thursday to begin building closer ties and help send stronger teams to the 2012
IOC President Jacques Rogge brokered a five-hour gathering
at Olympic headquarters that addressed lifting Israeli travel restrictions to
allow Palestinian athletes and coaches more access between the West Bank and
Palestinian athletes were promised IOC funding and Israeli
support to prepare for the London Olympics.
The parties hailed the
“positive and constructive” meeting, and agreed to study the travel issues
before returning to Lausanne in March.
That’s when they plan to present
proposals to their governments.
“We believe that through sport we can
make a difference. I hope today we made the first steps,” Efraim Zinger,
secretary general of the Israel Olympic committee, told The Associated
Zinger described Palestinian Olympic leader Jibril Rajoub as a
partner in the process.
Rajoub said it was “a common choice for
everybody” at the meeting to seek ways to help Palestinian athletes and teams
“It is my dream as Palestinian national Olympic
committee president to participate in next year’s Olympic games by an army of
athletes,” Rajoub told The AP.
Only four Palestinian athletes competed at
the 2008 Beijing Olympics, even though the team is entitled to additional help
through the IOC’s solidarity program.
Zinger said Israel was committed to
hosting the Palestinian team at training camps and coaching seminars, and share
its knowledge of sports science and medicine.
“We are there and in
advance we said ‘Yes’ for any request regarding assistance for the preparation
of Palestinian athletes for the Olympic Games,” Zinger said.
wide-ranging discussion, Israel also sought IOC help to increase its
participation in Olympics sports.
There was discussion of Israel and
Palestine being accepted into the Mediterranean Games, a quadrennial
multi-sports event that will be hosted by Greece in 2013.
something the IOC agreed to engage more actively on,” Zinger said.
Israeli athlete or coach or sport person has the right to participate in sports
events, conferences and meetings that are under the patronage of the IOC or one
of the international federations.
That is part of the Olympics
Palestinians also need IOC assistance to change “realities on
the ground,” which include international opponents being affected by travel
limitations, Rajoub said.
Rajoub, who is also president of the
Palestinian soccer federation, said his team must be allowed to play a home
match next month against Thailand. It counts toward qualification for the London
“It is a priority for me,” he
Restrictions enforced by Israel on athletes’ movements helped
eliminate the Palestinians from 2010 World Cup qualification. The Palestinian
federation could not send a team to a return match against Singapore in October
2007 and forfeited. Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup is scheduled to
start in June.