London Olympics
Photo: Getty Images Bank

Despite hardships, Palestinians train for Olympics

Palestinian athletes train to compete in 2012 London Olympics under the Palestinian flag. In spite of technical difficulties, one competitor says: 'Nothing is impossible if you are determined'

Darting down the bumpy streets of Gaza wearing a cheap pair of sneakers, Palestinian runner Bahaa al-Farra dodges potholes and traffic as he trains to compete against the world's best athletes at the London Olympics.


Although an Olympic medal is a near impossibility, the 400-meter runner takes to the city streets for about three hours a day, speeding down crowded avenues in the morning before hitting the gym in the afternoon.


"It's not easy to be an athlete in Gaza," al-Farra said.


Al-Farra is one of a handful of athletes who will compete under the Palestinian flag at the London Olympics.


Although little has changed since Palestinians first participated in the Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games, they're now making the long-term investments they hope will bear results in a generation building an Olympic-size swimming pool and asking for foreign aid for four large multipurpose gyms.


Four Palestinians will be headed to London for the 2012 Games, though none of them has reached Olympic qualifying standards. Instead, they will be competing by invitation from the International Olympic Committee.


"I know that many people and experts say winning a medal is a fantasy, but I have a strong belief that nothing is impossible if you are determined," al-Farra said.


נאלץ לרוץ בין המהמורות ברחובות עזה. אל-פרא (צילום: AP)

Al-Farra training ahead of games (Photo: AP)


With medals unlikely, the athletes are mainly driven by the thrill of representing Palestine, even if they still live under full or partial Israeli control and their hopes of gaining independence remain unfilled after two decades of stop-and-go negotiations.


Al-Farra's coach, Majed Abu Maraheel, recalled his excitement of waving the Palestinian flag at the 1996 Olympics, just two years after Palestinians won limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and Gaza, the areas that are to make up Palestine, along with east Jerusalem. 


At about the same time, 20-year-old swimmer Ahmed Jibril will be heading to Spain to join 17-year-old Sabine Hazboun in training. Hazboun competes in the 50-meter freestyle and 50 butterfly, while Jibril swims the 400 freestyle, the Palestinian Olympic Committee said.


The Olympic-size pool, being built in the West Bank town of Jericho, will be completed in four months, and the four gyms should be ready in two years, he said.


"To create an Olympic champion, you need at least 15 years," al-Halabi said. "We still don't have the required installations and proper budgets."



פרסום ראשון: 03.18.12, 07:39
 new comment
This will delete your current comment