I haven't paid much attention to the Olympics since they started letting professional athletes particpate. The competitions lost their magic for me.
However, I'll be tuning in to the opening ceremonies tomorrow night to watch history in the making.
Iraqi athletes will carry their country's flag as they enter the Olympics for the first time in 14 years.
"If I'm walking in the Opening Ceremony, that's enough for me," said swimmer Mohammed Abbas, one of seven Iraqis competing via a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee.
Most athletes qualify for the Olympics by meeting standards measured in seconds or meters.
These athletes qualified because they are alive.
This is a wonderful testament to freedom and democracy.
And for nearly two decades, until the Saddam Hussein regime toppled in spring of 2003, the Iraq Olympic Committee was run as the personal fiefdom of his older son — the psychopath Uday — who tortured and imprisoned underperforming athletes, especially soccer players.
He was just as punishing to athletes who performed to their capacity but still lost, thereby denying him the reflected glory.
An exhibit in a Baghdad stadium last month showed some of the dreadful tools that Uday employed against his cowering athletes: An iron-maiden-like casket, with spikes on the inside, into which he forced those who displeased him, and chain whips with steel barbs the size of tennis balls attached to the end.
I'm incredibly happy for the Olympic athletes of Iraq and their proud families. Just a short time ago, this would have been impossible. Now, they are free to compete and free from fear.
I can't wait to see the athletes holding the flag of Iraq high tomorrow night.
: The Iraq soccer team defeated Portugal today
, 4-2, in a preliminary match. Go Iraq!