Israel doubles security budget for Olympics as athletes fear hostility in Paris

Israeli athletes have felt alienated by other delegations after calls for Israel to be excluded from the Games


PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Alexei Bychenko of Israel and teammates enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Israeli athletes will face alienation from other delegations and security threats at the Olympics this year, say members of the country’s national team.

The Olympics in Paris this summer will be Israel’s 18th appearance at the competition, despite calls for the country to be excluded from the Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) assured Israel in March that there will be no threat to the country’s Olympic status, saying “there is no question” that Israeli athletes will be allowed to compete.

IOC President Thomas Bach also assured the Israeli delegation that there would be “special measures” taken regarding the security of Israeli athletes.

Israel has doubled its own security budget this for this year’s Games. Flag-bearer and judo champion Peter Paltchick told US news site Jewish Insider that he was confident, given the extra security, that the Olympics this summer would be “safe and secure” for all Israeli athletes competing.

“There are so many people who are taking care of us and making us feel secure,” he said. “The staff is really amazing, and I feel that we have nothing to worry about, we are all just focusing on preparing for the game ahead.”

Security has been a priority for the Israeli delegation since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich when eleven Israeli coaches and athletes were killed in a terrorist attack. The Palestinian militant group Black September infiltrated the Olympic Village, where they killed two members of the Israeli delegation, and took another nine hostage.

Eytan Ben David, former lead of the dignitary protection unit in the Shin Bet, told Jewish Insider that athletes and coaches this year will be protected with the “highest level of security that exists”. He also said yh that given the successful protection of Eurovision singer Eden Golan, security will be prepared.

But for Israeli athletes competing in France, it isn’t just a matter of physical safety, but of alienation. Following calls for boycotts and sanctions, Israeli athletes feel unwelcome at the Games. “Many of the athletes who used to be my friend do not want to talk to me anymore or shake my hand,” Peter Paltchick told The Jewish Insider.

“I’m sure there will be other provocations,” he continued, “but I am trying to stay focused on the technical stuff and on competing. Just being there and trying to win is the best representation for my country”.

Israel will be competing in 16 events at this summer’s games, sending 87 athletes to compete in events including archery, Judo and surfing. 

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