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olympic pride (Updated)

I haven't paid much attention to the Olympics since they started letting professional athletes particpate. The competitions lost their magic for me. iraqiathletes.jpg 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. Update: The Iraq soccer team defeated Portugal today, 4-2, in a preliminary match. Go Iraq!

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Comments

My original response was gonna be 'this is just a token gesture', but then I actually read the whole post and decided to silence myself. Well... obviously not silence... but... er... shit I'm still talking. You know what I mean.

I hope the Olympic committee - or at least the reporters - note this fact. but I'm not going to hold my breath. They keep refusing to have an official commemoration of the Munich massacre.

I've always enjoyed the Olympics inspite of it always having professional athletes. You know, the "amateurs" from the Soviet Union or East Germany.

I wonder how the "world" is going to greet the Iraqis at the opening ceremonies. Or the Americans and Israelis for that matter. After our atheletes have been lectured on keeping a low and humble profile, I sure hope they wave some flags and cause the Euros a bit of the vapors.

Yehudit, the Olympics have lost much of its glamor and credibility for lots of politically craven moves... the refusal to acknowledge what happened in 1972 is number one on a long list.

I'm going to be sorely disappointed (but not surprised) if what I have heard is true: That the Iraqi athletes are cheered (as they should be), but the athletes of the country that made it possible are booed.

Can you say: "You're bad because you did a good thing without our permission"?

Sorry if this is a little too rantish too soon. Delete it if you want. Not that you need my permission :-) (I try to behave, I really do.)

What do you mean "country" that made it possible? Shouldn't that be "countries." Or is now admitted that the coalition of the willing is BS?

Too bad the IOC won't let the Taiwanese fly their flag or call themselves Taiwan. They are being forced (yet again) to be called Chinese-Teipei and fly a flag that they themselves do not recognize as their own.

All I know is that if New York gets the Olympics in 2012, I'm moving out.

I was reading in the paper this morning how there were 2 Iraqi athletes in the Sydney games, so I'm not sure where the 14 years statement comes from.

Opening soccer match: Iraq 3, Portugal 2.

Since the USA men's soccer team didn't make the Olympics this year (and neither did any of the three medalists from Sydney!), I'll be rooting for Iraq! GO FREEDOM GO!

Dawn: you are right, countries did make it possible. But as you know, only one country is going to be booed, thus my use of the singular.

Is what you're quoting from an article? I don't suppose you have a link available? I'm interested in reading the whole article.

Thanks!

Don't forget the Afghans - even women.

I'm dating myself even if I'm as old as you but the Olympics was magical for me in 1972 even with the hostages taken - Mark, Bruce, Frank, Ogla - so many great moments.

Then '76 and '80 came and went, destroyed by the politics of that time. By '84, the networks destroyed it with their horrible presentations (everything and everybody HAD to have a pre-made storyline - exception was the US Hockey Gold Medal which was so unexpected).

Competitions weren't fully shown except for those the nets deemed worthy - the rest of the time was spent gabbing in the booth or showing "very special stories" about this athlete's dying brother or that athlete's drug problems.

I keep on hoping it will get "good" again but I'm highly pessimistic -- perhaps in the future if the feeds get opened to the net and people get to take it back (video-blogging the Olympics anyone?). We had the pay-for-view blue-red-gold channels and I suppose NBC is going to have quite a few of their cable channels working overtime, but... I don't think it will still be worth investing time in or really caring about (OK, maybe if the Iraqis win at soccer over the French).

FYI all, here is the whole schedule from NBC:

http://www.nbcolympics.com/results/index.html

You'll need to scroll down a bit to 'soccer', then you can click on a date to bring up the details.

And on 15 August, Iraq 2, Costa Rica 0. Iraq reaches the quarterfinals.

The Munich Olympics was not a magical occasion, even if you ignore the massacre, which I can't. Instead, it was tainted by fraud. USSR 51, USA 50.