The International Olympic Committee defends the participation of Israeli athletes in Paris 2024 © Getty Images

The ongoing armed conflict between Israel and Palestine has also had an impact on the world of sport. Examples include the relocation of Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague basketball and the withdrawal of three Israeli teams (Bnei Herzliya, Ironi Ness Ziona, and Hapoel Galil Elyon) from the FIBA Champions League.

The escalating violence, characterised by daily fighting and bombings, has been going on since 7 October, when Hamas (listed as terrorist organisation by the European Union) carried out a terrorist attack on Israeli territory, causing hundreds of casualties.

In the midst of all this is the world of sport and athletes, with the 2024 Paris Olympics just around the corner. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already spoken out about both the sporting and security aspects of the Games. The German news agency DPA published a statement from a spokesperson, assuring that the IOC would not discriminate against Israeli athletes.

The spokesman added: "The IOC is committed to individual responsibility, and athletes cannot be held responsible for the actions of their governments. Otherwise, swift action will be taken, as was the case during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games."

Thomas Bach, at a ceremony commemorating the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics. ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach, at a ceremony commemorating the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics. ©Getty Images

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which were postponed for a year because of COVID, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew to avoid a possible confrontation with Israeli athlete Tohar Butbul, prompting the IOC to impose a 10-year ban on the athlete and his coach.

As far as security is concerned, it's worth remembering one of the most tragic incidents in Olympic history. On 5 September 1972, during the Munich Games, Palestinian militants took 11 members of the Israeli delegation hostage in the Olympic Village. The terrorists claimed to be part of the Black September movement and were demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The incident ended with a police intervention that did not prevent the deaths of all the hostages, one policeman and five of the eight attackers.

In this context, France is currently on the highest level of anti-terrorist alert. The Paris 2024 Organising Committee, led by  Toni Estanguet, has stressed that security has been an integral part of the project from the outset. When the project was launched, France had already been the target of attacks. The authorities and Paris 2024 have ensured that security is a top priority for the success of the Games.

However, the IOC's comments about athletes not being held responsible for the decisions of their country's leaders have been strongly criticised in Russia, where there is a perception of double standards given that its athletes have already been banned from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and will not be taking part in Paris 2024 due to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

Maria Zakharova spoke for the Russian government in this regard. ©Getty Images
Maria Zakharova spoke for the Russian government in this regard. ©Getty Images

It's important to note that the Olympic organisation recommended that federations allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals but suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in October "for the inclusion of the Ukrainian regions, Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk, and Zaporizhia, which constitutes a violation of the Olympic Charter." On 6 November, the ROC appealed the suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"We demand a clear and unequivocal rejection by the IOC of the practice of double standards, the strict application of equal treatment for all athletes without exception, and without discrimination for any reason," stated Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The IOC's response was swift: "The measures and recommendations adopted are a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army during the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. This constitutes a violation of the Olympic Truce in force at the time, as well as a violation of the Olympic Charter".