Olympics 2024, Paris, Shin Bet, Security

Large Shin Bet team to accompany Israeli athletes at Paris Olympics

Israel's Olympic team will need heightened security measures in Paris.

Paris 2024 Olympic rings (Photo: Shutterstock / JeanLucIchard)

With less than three weeks until the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, Israel's nearly 90-strong delegation is grappling with a unique set of challenges. Beyond the usual rigors of Olympic preparation, these athletes must contend with heightened security concerns and the potential for political controversy against the backdrop of the ongoing Gaza conflict.

"There is going to be a lot of security, both French and Israeli," said Peter Paltchik, a judoka champion and one of Israel's flag-bearers for the opening ceremony. Speaking from his European training camp, Paltchik expressed confidence in the security measures but acknowledged the complex situation facing Israeli athletes.

Since the tragic events of the 1972 Munich Olympics, where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Israeli Olympic delegations have received enhanced security. This year, with Israel facing international backlash over the Gaza war, those measures have been intensified.

Eytan Ben David, former head of the Shin Bet's dignitary protection unit, told Jewish Insider that this year's team will be protected with the "highest level of security that exists ... Every place where there are athletes, every single person representing Israel will have security." He emphasized the extensive coordination between Israeli and French authorities, covering both operational and intelligence aspects.

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar revealed that the country's security budget for the Olympics has doubled compared to previous years. "There are more threats to Israelis abroad since Oct. 7, many times over," Zohar said.

While security is paramount, Israeli officials are keen to ensure it doesn't overshadow the athletes' Olympic experience. Zohar emphasized that the Shin Bet will try to operate discreetly, aiming "not to provoke too much or create situations that will embarrass the athletes."

Despite rumors of a potential withdrawal, an Israeli Embassy spokesperson in Paris confirmed Israel's full participation in all events, including the opening ceremony.

Beyond security concerns, Israeli athletes are bracing for potential hostility from fellow competitors and spectators. Paltchik noted a shift in attitudes since October 7, saying, "Many of the athletes who used to be my friend do not want to talk to me anymore or shake my hand."

David Wiseman, founder of Follow Team Israel, a popular social media page, pointed out that while major security threats are a concern, Israeli athletes might also face smaller-scale disruptions or unsportsmanlike behavior.

Despite these challenges, the Israeli delegation remains focused on their athletic goals. Yael Arad, president of the Olympic Committee of Israel, emphasized the team's commitment to "the competitions and putting politics or any other interference aside."

Paltchik echoed this sentiment, stating, "Just being there and trying to win is the best representation for my country."

The Jewish Insider contributed to this report.

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