Palestine condemns decision on Sakorafa

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The Palestinian ambassador to Greece has condemned the Israeli occupation and its toll on Palestinian youth who wanted to become Olympic athletes.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:09 IST
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A Palestinian team will compete in the Olympics this year for only the third time in history -- following appearances at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. Three competitors will represent the Palestinians in Athens. It was hoped they would be joined by the former Greek Olympian and world record holder, 47-year-old female javelin thrower Sofia Sakorafa, who sought to compete under the Palestinian flag in an act of solidarity. This request was denied by the IOC. IAAF General Secretary Istvan Gyulai said in a letter to Palestinians saying Sofia Sakorafa, who received Palestinian citizenship this year, would not be able to compete in the games based on the length of her throw. Sakorafa and Palestinian officials questioned the motives behind the decision. Speaking at the Palestinian embassy in Athens, ambassador Marwan Abdelhamid condemned Israeli hindrance of the Olympic ideal. "We call on Israel to demolish the wall of hatred, if not for the sake of Olympic champions as it was in the Olympic history, then let it be for the sake of peace. We call on Israel to let our children dream of becoming Olympic champions, instead of searching for desperate ways out from the nightmare of occupation," he said. Motives questioned Sakorafa and Palestinian officials complain that Olympic officials were setting aside the spirit of the games. During a news conference, they questioned the motives behind the decision, which they erroneously attributed to the IOC. Sakorafa proudly held up her Palestinian passport - signed by Yasser Arafat - and said not allowing her to compete in Athens violates Olympic ideals of friendship among nations. "We cease this opportunity to declare that any possible action against the Athens Olympics, by anyone, by anyone invoking the name of Palestine, will be considered by the whole of the Palestinian people, as an action against Palestine itself," added Abdelhamid. Marwan Abdel Hamid, said the IOC informed him of the decision Monday night, and he called Arafat to let him know. The Palestinian leader was disappointed, he said, but still considered Sakorafa's nationalization "a noble gesture." Sakorafa participated in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as a member of the Greek team and broke the women's world javelin record at the 1982 European championships. Then she dropped the sport, becoming a mother and a local politician. (AP)

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