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May 17, 2004


Iraqi National Pride and the Olympics

Thanks to the Olympic wild card system that allows some athletes from every country in the world to compete without qualifying, Iraq will send six individual athletes to Athens this summer. Iraq's national soccer team will be the country's first to compete in the Olympics; they qualified based on their own merit, recently beating Saudi Arabia (!) in a regional qualifying match.

The article includes some incredible stories of Iraqi sports under Saddam, and Uday's efforts to build up Iraq's international Olympic presence. "Iraq has taken part in the Olympics before but has only ever won one medal - a weight-lifting bronze in 1960. Saddam was determined to change that, putting his eldest son, Uday, in charge of the national Olympic team. Uday's control of the team was through fear and intimidation. Those who failed to perform well enough were jailed and beaten. His Olympic committee building became a private jail, replete with torture devices, until it was flattened by an airstrike during the war."

Sure, many athletes are glad to be able to miss an occassional goal without being sent to jail, but not everyone in Iraqi sports thinks things are better off under US occupation. Security problems have caused league games to be cancelled, and some athletes say they are in greater danger now. However, they are eager to enter international competition and represent their country again. They even have a new Olympic slogan: "Iraq is Back!" Go get 'em, tigers!

categories: International, Sports, War and Security
posted by amy at 10:07 AM | #