UPDATE: Since writing this article, questions have been raised regarding whether the pools in West Bank are Olympic-sized. Palestinian publicity that claim they are Olympic-sized may not necessarily mean that they meet the specification of the Olympics. See this Jerusalem Post report for further details. What is clear is that even if the pools do not meet Olympic specification, Israel is not to blame as resources clearly exist for the mentioned pools to have been built.
There has been a popular story that has spread online via many media sources in the past week that told of a Palestinian Olympian who was unable to train properly because there are no Olympic-size pools in the Palestinian territories and that the “Israeli occupation” had cut off her access to training facilities.
Unfortunately, the world’s media failed to look at the facts and instead used this fake sob story to paint Israel in a bad light, because it now turns out that none of the above claims, made by Palestinian athlete Mary al-Atrash, were true.
As Breitbart reports, despite the claims otherwise, there are in fact several Olympic-size pools in the Palestinian territories. There’s one in Gaza, one in the West Bank town of Nablus, and most important of all, there is even an Olympic-size pool in Beit Sakhour – the very town that Mary al-Atrash comes from.
It also turns out that the 22-year-old did not reach out to Israel for support or request a permit to train in Israeli pools, which, if she had done, she would have likely been granted a permit.
Even last month, before this lie-filled story broke, the Israeli government office for coordinating activities in the West Bank issued a public statement on Facebook saying that Miss al-Atrash had refused to apply for such a permit, but that they wished her the best of luck in any case.
It is also worth noting that many Olympic swimmers do not actually train in Olympic size pools. They only need to train in regulation-sized pools, rendering the whole complaint moot.
In any case, Miss al-Atrash, who trained in a semi-Olympic pool in the Palestinian territories, failed to qualify for the Olympics because her best time fell a few seconds short of the required 25.28 seconds. Despite that, she was invited to Rio through a unique Olympic programme that exempts athletes from nations with an underdeveloped sports framework.