IOC Chief Says No to Tel Aviv
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Tel Aviv will not be considered a candidate to play host to the Olympics as long as there is no peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the International Olympic Committee president said Monday.
Juan Antonio Samaranch’s comments came after a suicide bombing last week at a Tel Aviv disco that killed 20 teen-agers. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip braced for possible retaliation.
Samaranch’s itinerary had to be changed when Israel insisted he land in Tel Aviv and not in the Gaza Strip as he had planned. After landing in Israel on Sunday and meeting with members of Israel’s Olympic committee, Samaranch went to the Gaza Strip, where he met the Palestinian committee.
Samaranch was unable to meet with Yasser Arafat there as planned. After the bombing, Israel barred the Palestinian leader from using the Gaza airport, thus preventing him from reaching Gaza from the West Bank.
Only if the feuding sides are able to calm tensions will it be possible to consider a bid by Tel Aviv to play host to the Games in 2012, Samaranch said.
``It can happen if you have peace,″ Samaranch told reporters in Tel Aviv. ``Without peace, it’s impossible.″
Israel indicated last year that it might propose the coastal city as a potential site for the Olympics. The announcement was made before the fighting broke out in September and with the anticipation that a peace agreement could be the main feature of an Israeli bid.
Samaranch’s visit to the Middle East is part of his attempt to meet with all 199 national Olympic committees before he leaves office in July after more than 20 years. The trip will take his tally to 196.