United World Wrestling. UWW

No to Istanbul means no to Paris 2024 for the five athletes from the national team who opted out of the tournament. After the suspension of commercial relations by Turkey, the Israeli Security Agency barred its wrestling delegation from competing and shut down their hopes of Olympic participation.

 The qualifier, set to start Thursday in the Turkish city, represents the latest chance for wrestlers to seal their tickets for the upcoming Games, whose inauguration date is July 26. Unless formal invitations are granted after the fact, Joshua Stuart Finesilver, Mitchell Louis Finesilver, Yuri Kalashnikov, Melkamu Fetene and Ilana Kratysh will not compete for medals in the French capital. 

In the latest episode of growing political tension between both countries due to the Israeli-Hamas war, Turkey announced last week that it was halting all trade with the Jewish state. The decision apparently sparked reaction from the Israeli side, as the Security Agency, Shin Bet, ordered the team to drop out of contention because of security concerns.

"I'm disappointed, but I knew that this was going to be the decision," said freestyle wrestler Ilana Kratysh, the first Israeli woman to wrestle in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. "I hope that the Israeli association and the Olympic committee will demand from the world association to consider us and give us a free ticket to the Games. The athletes should not be harmed by the situation." Such invitation seats are to be granted by the international federation, United World Wrestling (UWW).

The qualifying event is scheduled from May 9 to May 13 and includes 54 non-nominal places, with three tickets in each of the six categories of the three modalities, men’s and women’s wrestling and Greco-Roman men’s wrestling. An additional 13 spots were previously awarded in the 2023 World Championship in Belgrade. Every weight category offers three Paris Olympic spots — one each to the two finalists and one to the winner of the wrestle off between the two bronze medalists.

lana Kratysh, of Israel, and Maryia Mamashuk, of Belarus, wrestle  in Riga. GETTY IMAGES
lana Kratysh, of Israel, and Maryia Mamashuk, of Belarus, wrestle in Riga. GETTY IMAGES

Back in March, Israel’s National Security Council had issued a warning against travelling to Turkey, arguing that “the potential for terrorist threats against Israelis and Jews more than five months after the start of the war is very high." The current worldwide military conflicts are cause of growing concern for the Paris 2024 Games, as the war between Russia and Ukraine reaches its third year and the Middle East conflict also involves other countries such as Syria, Jordan or Iran.

Just Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during his Paris visit for backing his idea of a truce in all conflicts. "Perhaps this could be an opportunity to work towards a sustainable solution [to the conflicts] in full respect of international law," Macron said.

According to reports, Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh as been living in Turkey since meeting in Istanbul on April with president Tayyip Erdogan, who has compared Israel’s bombing of Gaza to the Holocaust.

In April, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach promised to send invitations to the Palestinian National Olympic Committee, regardless of whether their athletes qualified in the field of play or not. He alluded to the damage the Israeli bombings inflicted on their

sports facilities. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza, Bach’s support for the Palestinians has been evident. "The athletes have been supported in many different ways to enable them to take part in the qualifiers and to continue their training," the IOC boss stated then.

In May, several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators demanded restrictions on Israel's involvement in the Games, insisting they should be treated like Russia and compete under a neutral flag. As a form of repercussion for Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which received assistance from Belarus, Russian and Belarusian athletes are prohibited by the IOC from competing under their national flags at the Olympics.