TEL AVIV – The largest-ever Palestinian delegation will compete in the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with one caveat: half of them are German.
Three of the group are Germans of Palestinian descent and one was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt.
Of the six, only two athletes qualified to take part in the Olympics on the basis of past success in their chosen field. The remaining four received invitations through an Olympic program that exempts athletes from nations with an underdeveloped sports framework who do not meet the qualifying criteria.
Mary al-Atrash is a 22-year-old swimmer from the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Atrash said that since there is no Olympic-sized pool in the Palestinian territories, she was forced to train in one half the size. Even though her best time is a few seconds short of the Olympic qualifying 25.28 seconds, Atrash was still invited to compete.
“I’m very proud to be going to Rio. And to represent Palestine,” Atrash told CBC News. “I also have the responsibility of highlighting that we are living under great difficulties.”
Another swimmer, 25-year-old Ahmed Gebrel, was born to an Egyptian mother and Palestinian father and raised in Cairo. Although he also failed to qualify, he was nonetheless invited to Rio.
The remainder of the delegation comprises two runners and a dressage rider, an equestrian sport in which athletes control their horses.