Four Iraqis to compete in Beijing Olympics

July 31st, 2008 - 12:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing/Lausanne, July 31 (DPA) A last-minute appeal by an Iraqi government delegation bore fruit when the International Olympic Committee reversed a decision made last week and gave the go-ahead for four Iraqi athletes to compete in the Beijing Olympics. Two rowers were given the green light Wednesday by their international federation to join two athletics competitors - also given international federation go-ahead earlier - after the IOC relented.

The IOC last month barred Iraq from the Aug 8-24 Games after the nation’s government dissolved the National Olympic Committee (NOC).

The IOC accused the government of serious political interference in the affairs of the country’s supposedly independent committee.

However, the IOC confirmed in Beijing Wednesday that it had relented after Iraq had given an assurance that a new NOC would be elected next November under international supervision.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said he felt he must compliment the Iraqi government on agreeing to a line from which Iraqi athletes would profit in the long term.

However, the reprieve came too late for three other athletes for whom Olympic registration had already closed - an archer, a judoka and the country’s sole medal prospect, weightlifter Muhammed Sawara.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, who took his country’s case to the IOC, said in Beijing: “We want to forget the past. We want to see the Iraqi team in the Olympics. Sport is very important to us right now. It brings people together.”

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