It’s difficult enough to be an Iraqi Olympic athlete, with all the worn-torn violence and constant threats of personal safety in their home country. But now this is just unfair - All those athletes who put up with so much just for a chance at Olympic glory won’t even get to go to the Games this year.
The ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that the IOC has banned Iraq from competing in Beijing this August. What could have happened so that a national team who received an opening ceremony standing ovation just four years ago isn’t even allowed to show up (and more importantly, get the hell out of Iraq for a few weeks)?
The International Olympic Committee told Iraqi sports officials in a letter that it would uphold its ban imposed in June after the government in Baghdad replaced its national Olympic panel with members not recognized by the IOC.
The IOC had called the move unacceptable government interference.
The IOC placed it’s original ban on Iraq a month after the country’s government disbanded their national Olympic committee:
Among the claims was that it was illegitimate because it lacked enough members for a legal quorum — even though four members of the committee, including its chief, were kidnapped two years ago and their fates remain unknown.
But the AP believes it goes deeper than missing out on meetings:
There’s also possible echoes of Iraq’s sectarian rifts. The Youth and Sports Ministry is dominated by Shiites who also control the government. Iraq’s Olympic Committee had included several (Sunni) holdovers from the Saddam era.
Whatever the case, five Iraqi athletes originally bound for Beijing now get to experience the Olympics by watching the Games at home on TV, provided their sets haven’t been blown up - or themselves, either.