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Is Iraq Back in Time For The Olympics?
ATHENS, GREECE February 26, 2004 —Sometime between today and the close of this weekend, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will decide if Iraq can participate in the Summer Olympics this August in Athens, Greece.

At a Tuesday briefing, Coalition Provisional Authority (the USA-led occupation government) spokesman Dan Senor announced "it is expected at any time during that period in Athens the formal suspension on Iraq's participation in the international Olympics will be lifted."

Right: Paul Bremer watches the Iraqi wrestlers
Paul Bremer wrestles with Iraq

The USA is spending over $10 million of "coalition forces" and US taxpayer money to create a new Iraqi National Olympic Committee and prepare its athletes for the Olympic Games. Although none have yet to qualify for any Olympic competition, already numerous young Iraqi athletes are training in the USA and are flown, with military escort, all over the world to compete in qualifying events.

It is hoped that up to 25 Iraqi athletes will participate in the Athens Olympics. The IOC has already agreed to allow any qualifying Iraqi athlete to compete in the summer games. The question is whether they compete as individuals, under a neutral flag, such as the Olympic flag, or be sponsored by a recognized Iraq National Olympic Committee and participate under the flag of Iraq.

Under what flag Iraqi athletes compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics may seem a trivial matter but it is critical to whether the IOC will allow the Bush Administration to use the Olympics for propaganda purposes. The US-led occupation government is going to great lengths to show a global television audience that, thanks to American intervention, there is now a new "free" Iraq on the world stage. For the IOC, it would be an unprecedented decision to allow a National Olympic Committee to participate without an independent --let alone internationally recognized – government. The Olympic Movement would suffer immeasurable damage as a result.

As soon as the occupation of Iraq began, the drive to get Iraq in the Olympics started. Texas pest control consultant Maurice "Termite" Watkins, a former boxer who qualified for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, was put in charge of building an Iraqi Olympic boxing team. At about the same time, a group of exiled Iraqis -- former athletes, generals, and "friends of the Olympics in Iraq" -- formed the "Free Iraq Olympic Group," and immediately sought recognition from the Kuwait based Olympic Council of Asia, and requested a meeting with the IOC.

The sticky problem was that Iraq still had an IOC approved National Olympic Committee. But its president was Sadaam Hussein’s oldest son Uday. And Uday was accused of torturing Olympic athletes and abusing his office. His crimes were presented to the IOC, just before the USA invaded Iraq, by a group called INDICT. INDICT, based in London, was created by Britain and the USA and, since 1998, funded by the USA Congress. It is composed of "senior members of the Iraqi opposition" and their foreign supporters.

Based on the INDICT allegations of Uday Hussein’s cruelties, and the influence of the Free Iraq Olympic Group, the IOC suspended Iraq’s National Olympic Committee in May 2003. The USA-led occupation government, through its new Ministry of Youth and Sport, then held local sports "elections" throughout Iraq to select members and candidates for an Olympic committee. This sports movement is used by Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department as an example of how "key seeds of democracy are being planted ... by the Iraqi people."

The result of this so-called democratic movement was a special election held January 29, 2004, for a new Iraq National Olympic Committee. Held in Kurd-occupied territory, at a mountain resort in northern Iraq, it was billed as the first free election in Iraq in over 35 years. But according to Ed Hula, editor of Around The Rings, an Olympics news web site, many of the voters were flown in on military transport, and the whole affair required "extensive logistical support" from the occupation government. At its conclusion not one woman was elected a member of the committee (an IOC goal) and 63 year old former athlete Ahmed al-Samarrai was elected president.

Validation of the election by the IOC was immediate and al-Samarrai declared "a free Iraq has arrived." Later, a member of the new Iraq National Olympic Committee told an Agence France Presse reporter "above all we want to show people that there is an Iraqi flag and that Iraq is on her way back."

The White House considers the reconstitution of the Iraq Olympic Committee the number one sign of "cultural rebirth" in Iraq. Japan and Bulgaria are now in the "coalition" to help train Iraqi athletes and donate equipment and uniforms. An AP report today says the new Iraq National Olympic Committee "is expected to be granted official recognition by the IOC executive board...clearing the way for as many as two dozen Iraqi athletes to compete under their national flag in Athens."

But when Afghanistan tried to attend the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the IOC would not allow it. One of the reasons given was that "in order to have an NOC [National Olympic Committee], you need to be recognized by the United Nations." Also at the Sydney 2000 games, the IOC allowed four East Timor athletes to compete, but they participated independently under the flag of the IOC itself, due to Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. There are other examples in Olympic history of the IOC not caving in to political pressure and allowing the Olympics to validate imperialist actions.

For the IOC to recognize this new Iraq National Olympic Committee, without a sovereign government behind it, would violate its own principles. The Olympic Charter specifically lists the Role of the IOC to "oppose[s] any political or commercial abuse of sports and athletes." Further, the Charter defines the Olympic Games as "competitions between athletes in individual and team events and not between countries."

If the new Iraq National Olympic Committee is truly committed to the goals of the Olympic Movement than it should be more than satisfied to just see its athletes compete as individuals.

With all the money already spent on getting Iraq in the Athens Olympics, is the overall condition of sport in Iraq improved? And what chance do the millions of Iraqi children have to someday dream of the Olympics? To date, according to Mounzer Fatfat, the American senior advisor to the Youth and Sports Ministry, not one of the 161 youth centers and 230 sports clubs destroyed by the war and subsequent chaos in Iraq has been reopened.

Yet Paul Bremer, the top USA official in charge of Iraq, said the potential Iraq Olympic wrestling team has been "invited by the American people" to train, for the next five months, at a state-of-the-art Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A strange invitation given that the American government provides no direct support for its own Olympic athletes.

2004 © Ben Calmes, Sinomania!



Termite began before IOC suspended NOC

Exiled athletes and generals….

April 17, 2003: Athletes in exile, sports officials and other friends of the Olympics in Iraq have formed a Free Iraq Olympic Group, says Muttaleb Ahmed, Secretary General for the Olympic Council of Asia. Muttaleb says establishment of a new government will obviously be a vital first step before the establishment of an NOC to replace the one still officially headed

group handed out t shirts with name to students in Baghdad

AP 2/26 The Japanese Olympic Committee said it will donate uniforms and sports equipment and help train Iraqi athletes for the Athens Games. The new Iraqi Olympic Committee is expected to be granted official recognition by the IOC executive board Friday, clearing the way for as many as two dozen Iraqi athletes to compete under their national flag in Athens.

Secondly, on Thursday -- sorry, tomorrow as well -- at 9:00 a.m., there is a backgrounder here at the international press center for the -- hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. This is regarding the upcoming International Olympic Committee meeting, which is taking place in Athens between February 26th and February 29th, and it is expected at any time during that period in Athens the formal suspension on Iraq's participation in the international Olympics will be lifted. And so there's going to be a backgrounder tomorrow by the experts from our end who have been working on that issue to sort of give you the chronology, the history of what's led up, what was the basis for the suspension, which many of you know; what's leading up to this meeting in the days ahead; how Iraq will be represented at the IOC meeting; and what we hope the next steps will be.

sports clubs, NOC, etc., an example of how "key seeds of democracy are being planted, and they're being planted by the Iraqi people."

allegations about uday and NOC from Indict group, chalabi among founders

white house:

100 days of progress in iraq

10 signs of cultural rebirth

no. 1 iraq Olympic cmte reconstituted

Boxing team:



Afghanistan 2000

"In order to have an NOC, you have to be recognized by the United Nations

OPEC-member Iraq, which now has a provisional government under US occupation, is sending a delegation to OPEC for the first time since the US-led war to topple Saddam Hussein began in March.

"OPEC is not a political organization and can not recognize a government which has not been first recognized by the United Nations,



Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, said the four-member Iraqi team has been "invited by the American people" to train at an Olympic facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.


Iraq Olympics:

SH’s son Uday in charge of OC

NOC suspended in May 2003

An announcement could come during an IOC executive board meeting Saturday or Sunday, said Ahmed al-Samarrai, the head of Iraq's Olympic committee.

As many as 25 Iraqi athletes are expected to participate in the Athens Olympics, even if the nation's committee is not officially recognized.

"With the democratic election of Iraq's new National Olympic Committee, we have taken a critical step toward ensuring our participation on the world state at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens," al-Sammarai said. "The International Olympic Committee's validation of the election has sent a clear and unmistakable message around the world - a free Iraq has arrived."

Using seized funds from Saddam Hussein's former regime, the U.S.-led occupation authority has provided equipment and salaries to the boxing team, which has a two-ring training camp.

Interim gov’t: The U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, retains ultimate authority.

Timing: group requested meeting with IOC, less than 2 weeks after fall of baghdad

Ahmed chalabi, spilling beans on timeframe that would have W visiting iraq in October:

The whole thing was set up so President Bush could come to the airport in October for a ceremony to congratulate the new Iraqi government


Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, said the four-member Iraqi team has been "invited by the American people" to train at an Olympic facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Fatfat supervises some 3,000 employees in the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

The ministry oversees 161 youth centers and 230 sports centers, all of which were sacked, looted and otherwise stripped bare after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, he said. None have been reopened (2/15/04)


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