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Runner without a country to compete

LONDON — Guor Marial ran for his life to escape a Sudanese child labor camp. Now he will get to run at the Olympics.

Despite having no passport and officially no country, the marathoner, 28, was cleared by the International Olympic Committee on Saturday to compete at the London Games under the Olympic flag.

"The voice of South Sudan has been heard," said Marial, who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. "The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there."

Marial, who has run an Olympic qualifying time, was born in what is now South Sudan, a newly independent African country that doesn't have a national Olympic body. The IOC's executive board approved his request to run as an independent, ending months of negotiations between the committee and Marial's representatives.

Marial was one of four athletes let in at the Games as independents; the others are from Nether­lands Antilles. All will take part under the Olympic flag.

Athletes from the former Yugoslavia competed under the Olympic flag in 1992, and so did athletes from East Timor in 2000. But Marial's case is a first, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

Marial is a permanent resident of the United States after arriving as a refugee when he was a kid, but he doesn't have American citizenship. He refused to compete under the Sudanese flag; he says its security forces killed 28 members of his family.

The Dutch Antilles was an independent territory of the Netherlands until 2010 and had its own Olympic committee and team. The islands are now part of the Netherlands as special municipalities. Their athletes will compete with the Dutch team in the future.

Position unchanged: IOC President Jacques Rogge said again there will be no minute of silence for the Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich massacre at the opening ceremony. Rogge rejected the latest calls from politicians in the United States, Israel and Germany for a special observance to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian gunmen in Munich. "We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," Rogge said.

Bird back: Sue Bird, who left the U.S. women's basketball team a week ago today after learning that her stepfather, Dennis, had died of a heart attack, rejoined the team for a 109-55 rout of Croatia in an exhibition game in Istanbul, Turkey. She played 19 minutes and had eight points and five assists.

"It's been emotional," said Bird, fighting through tears. "If I had a penny for every time somebody at the wake or funeral said to me, 'Dennis wants you to go win a gold medal' … I know I was where I was supposed to be the last week, and I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be now."

U.S. runner loses gold: American runner Crystal Cox was stripped of her gold medal from the 1,600-meter relay at the 2004 Olympics after admitting to doping, but the IOC put off a decision on whether to disqualify the U.S. team. Cox admitted in 2010 to using anabolic steroids and accepted a four-year suspension and disqualification of her results from 2001-04.

Runner without a country to compete 07/21/12 [Last modified: Sunday, July 22, 2012 10:07pm]
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