- Title: IRAQ: OLYMPICS: Iraqis welcome IOC decision to lift ban
- Date: 1st August 2008
- Summary: BAGHDAD, IRAQ (JULY 30, 2008) (REUTERS) IRAQI PARALYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTERS TRAINING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) THANI BUTRUS, TRAINER OF WEIGHT LIFTING OF IRAQI PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE SAYING: "We heard that the ban on the Iraqi olympic committee has been lifted. We felt very happy when we heard this news, that is the participation of our national team in the Beijing olympic games."
- Embargoed: 16th August 2008 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA793NRRZ68R7KX9GFIN1JGRCR
- Story Text: Iraqis expressed their happiness on Wednesday (July 30) with the participation of their athletes in the Beijing Olympic Games, hailing the International Olympic Committee decision which allowed Iraq to send a two-athlete team to next month's games.
The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday allowed Iraq to send a two-athlete team to next month's Beijing Games in a last-minute deal ending a dispute with the Iraqi government.
Iraq were banned last week after the government disbanded the country's National Olympic Committee (NOC), a move that had angered the IOC.
Iraqi officials met with IOC officials in Lausanne earlier on Tuesday in a desperate effort to iron out differences and send a team consisting only of two track and field athletes to the Games.
"We heard that the ban on the Iraqi olympic committee has been lifted. We felt very happy when we heard this news, that is the participation of our national team in the Beijing olympic games," said Thani Butrus, a weightlifting coach of the Iraqi paralympic committee.
The IOC said it was agreed Iraq could send a team to Beijing but the NOC must hold new elections, monitored by the IOC.
Basketball player Thamir Ghanim said, "We felt happy when we heard this news, the participation of Iraq in the Beijing Olympic games and the retraction of IOC decision regarding the Iraqi national team. We hope that they can give a chance to all to participate in this championship because this championship is an official and international one."
The government of Iraq disbanded the NOC in May because of a dispute over how it had been assembled. The IOC gave Iraq a deadline to reinstate the committee but the government had refused to back down.
Iraq had initially planned to send a small team despite violence that has killed more than 100 athletes in the country since the 2003 United States-led invasion.
Iraqi Minister of Youth and sport Jassim Mohammed Jaafar said that the participation of Iraq in the Beijing Olympic Games is aimed at lifting Iraq flag in Beijing Olympic Games.
"Our participation is a symbolic one. We do not participate to get medals but we participate under the programme 'white card' that is to help Iraq. With our regards and appreciation to our athletes, I do not think that they can compete with the international players. As I said that our participation is a symbolic one and our care is to lift the Iraqi flag in this big gathering," he added.
At least seven Iraqi athletes, two rowers, a weightlifter, a sprinter, a discus thrower, a judoka and an archer, had won places in Beijing.
On Wednesday the IOC said all but Iraq's athletics spots had been redistributed as deadlines had passed.
However, a double-sculls crew, Hamza Hussein Jabir and Haider Nouzad Hama, will compete under the Iraqi flag. This welcome news brings the Iraqi team up to four, including a sprinter, Dana Hussein Abdulrazzaq, and a discus-thrower, Haider Ali.
The two Iraqi rowers places had originally been reallocated to the North Korean National Olympic Committee (NOC) after the Iraqis missed the deadline for entering a team. The North Korean NOC declined the offer and the places have therefore been returned to the Iraqi rowers.
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