Olympics: Rise in antisemitism a security challenge for Israeli athletes


A rise in antisemitic acts around the world during the Gaza war has set new security challenges for Israeli athletes ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics, Israel’s Olympic Committee chief said.

Demonstrations — both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel — have been held in many countries since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 people hostage.

In response, Israel’s military has devastated Hamas-controlled Gaza, killing more than 15,000 Palestinians, according to Hamas-run Gaza health authorities.

Since then many countries have seen a spike in antisemitic acts, with Germany last month reporting a 240% rise in the first week after the war began compared to the same period in 2022.

“The current wave of global antisemitism has created unique security requirements and challenges for our athletes as they gear up for the Olympics,” said Yael Arad, Israel Olympic Committee President.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Baseball – Men – Opening Round – Group B – Israel v South Korea – Yokohama Baseball Stadium, Yokohama, Japan – July 29, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA)

“Sadly, some of our athletes had faced obstacles with even participating in the competitions necessary for the Olympic criteria,” she told Reuters in a written statement on Tuesday.

Israel’s artistic swimming team earlier this month said it would not travel to competitions, including Olympic qualifiers in Qatar, due to safety fears.

“The current wave of global antisemitism has created unique security requirements and challenges for our athletes as they gear up for the Olympics.”

Yael Arad, Israel Olympic Committee President


Arad, Israel’s first-ever Olympic medalist, said none of the members of the Israeli Olympic team were active in any military activity.

“Our Olympic team members were not recruited (by the military), and are not involved in any combat or military activity. The Olympic team is wholly devoted to their training and solely focused on representing Israel at the Olympics,” Arad said.

“The Israeli Olympic Committee, in close collaboration with various stakeholders both in Israel and in host countries, is dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of our athletes.”

She did not provide any specific details on security measures for Israeli athletes.


“Unprecedented security”

Paris Games organizers said security arrangements for the July 26-Aug 11, 2024 event would be ‘unprecedented’. The Games’ security budget stands at 320 million euros.

“All threats, including terrorist threats, have been taken into account by the State since the beginning of the discussions on security for the Olympic Games,” a Paris Games spokesperson said.

For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) security is equally important, especially around the athletes’ village and competition venues.

The 1972 Munich Olympics saw attacks on the Israeli team by gunmen associated with the Palestinian terrorist group Black September inside the athletes’ village. Eleven Israeli team members died as well as one German police officer and five of the Palestinian gunmen.

“Security at any edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a topic of great importance for the IOC,” an IOC spokesperson said when asked whether plans for the Israeli team had been beefed up since the start of the Gaza conflict.

“We are in regular contact with Paris 2024 and have full confidence in the ability of the Organising Committee and the French authorities to deliver safe and successful Games.”

In the US, the Gaza war has brought a rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents including violent assaults and online harassment, according to advocacy groups. London’s police force said there had been a 14-fold increase in incidents of antisemitism in the three weeks after October 7. France recorded 1,159 antisemitic acts in the month since October 7, more than three times the number of such acts in 2022.


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