Iraq Not To Go To BeijingJuly 24, 2008
With all the talk lately about how dramatic the success of the “surge” has been in reducing violence and moving the Iraqis towards meeting those 18 benchmarks, I found it a little surprising and disconcerting to see this headline appear on Drudge: Iraq banned from Beijing Olympics
The team was already the subject of an interim ban after the Iraqi government replaced the country’s Olympic committee with its own appointees.
Under the IOC charter, all committees must be free of political influence.
Iraq had been planning to send a team of at least seven athletes to the Olympics which start on 8 August.
Two rowers, a weightlifter, a sprinter, a discus thrower, a judoka and an archer were in the frame for the trip to Beijing.
“The deadline for taking up places for Beijing for all sports except athletics has now passed,” said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.
“The IOC very sadly has now to acknowledge that it is likely there will be no Iraqi presence at the Beijing Olympic Games, despite our best efforts.”
In other words, the Iraqis couldn’t manage to scrape together a viable NOC (perhaps having something to do with the fact that their previous president had been kidnapped and remains missing), even though they had athletes trained and ready to compete. I know its just the Olympics and all, but that isn’t exactly a great sign of progress. In fact, since the Iraqi soccer team finished a surprising 4th in the 2004 Athens Games, this development could be symbolic of a step backwards. After all, along with 200+ others, even the tiny nation of Tuvalu managed to complete this simple task, giving her 12,000 citizens someone to root for come 08/08.
Update: Yay! 2 Iraqi Athletes Set for Beijing After IOC Lifts Ban
BAGHDAD, July 29 — Two Iraqi athletes will be allowed to participate in the Beijing Olympics after a last-minute pledge by the Iraqi government Tuesday not to interfere politically in the country’s Olympic movement.
Five members still didn’t make it in (missed the registration deadline), but I suppose 2 is better than none. Hopefully the deal is on the up-and-up, or I may have to admit that good ol’ Tex has a point. (h/t Gateway Pundit, via Memeorandum)