The Olympic opening was a festival of colors as the world watched Rio showcase their culture and welcome other countries to the event that brings the world together: the Olympics.
Among the flags that were raised and paraded, one stood out a little more than others.
Team Palestine also faced struggles that their fellow athletes representing other countries did not have to deal with, and their arrival at the games is, in itself, somewhat of a milestone.
With reports of their team officials and equipment managers having to buy necessities once they got to Brazil, it seems important to note the significance of their arrival.
For Palestine, it wasn’t as easy. They had to do more than simply qualify, show up and compete. In fact, they had to jump over obstacles that don’t even exist for other countries.
They had to defy those who don’t even recognize them as a country, and then show up determined with their flag raised high letting the world know that despite the occupation of their country, they’re not going anywhere.
They had to show everyone that they had every right to compete and show off their talent.
Meanwhile, reports suggest that equipment for their team had to be obtained once in Brazil — as Israel had reportedly stopped the entry of their equipment due to claims of security issues and payment of entry fees.
The athletes were luckily able to get to Brazil with no problems — but with countries’ Olympic teams, we only speak of their odds of winning. For the Palestinian team, their very presence has become a talking point. Unlike other countries, their arrival was not guaranteed; so seeing them raise their flag as they get ready to compete invoked a lot of emotion globally.
The Palestinian flag represents a people who are often forgotten about, with many going as far as to deny their very existence. So seeing their flag on an international platform was wonderful, as it shows once again that Palestine is strong willed and its people possess resilience and power.
The 2016 team consists of six athletes, both male and female:
Mayda al-Sayed – Women’s Marathon
Mary al-Atrash – Swimming – Women’s 50m Freestyle
Ahmed Gebrel – Swimming – Men’s 200m Freestyle
Mohammed Abukhousa – Track and Field – Men’s 100m
Simon Yacoub – Judo – Men’s 60 kg
Christian Zimmermann – Equestrian (dressage)
Palestine has yet to win a medal at the Olympics — this might be a testament to the lack of facilities in Palestine and restrictions that are imposed on them with Mary al-Atrash herself admitting that at this point she doesn’t even expect a medal.
“Because of all the difficulties that Palestinians live under … it makes it harder to practice and compete in our sports,” she said. Yet, their presence at the games is more important than just showing up and trying to win.
Rather, it should be noted as a way for us to recognize their plight and to realize that this is a human rights issue. We as people must find ways to raise awareness and help in whichever way we can.
Written by Iqra Mehdi