Iraq at the Olympics

The New York Times has an article about the Iraqi Olympic team. Four of the seven athletes who were supposed to participate are able to. I don’t know what happened to the soccer team, unless there was a conflict with the Asian games.

Nozad, 25, and Jebur, 32, who squeezed in practices on the Tigris between military patrols, curfews and times when soldiers blocked them from their boathouse, are half of Iraq’s four-athlete Olympic team.

Their training had to remain flexible. At times, when violence was high in Baghdad, they were forced to stay indoors for three or four days and wait for the danger to disappear, Nozad said.

On the water, they were shooed back to shore by soldiers if officials from the Ministry of Defense were around. Forbidden to row downriver near government buildings, Nozad and Jebur said they often found themselves rowing in a most ridiculous manner: in tight circles.

They only had about 1,700 or 1,800 meters of river to use. The Olympic course is 2,000 meters long. Explosions often were the background noise, but they grew used to that.

It takes a brave athlete to compete for Iraq these days, considering what has happened to some of their fellow sportsmen. More than 30 Iraqi athletes, coaches and officials have been the victims of violence, including the Olympic cycling coach Mahoud Ahmed Fulayih, who was killed in 2006.

More than a dozen members of the national tae kwon do team were found dead last year, after being kidnapped on a highway in Anbar province. Four of 11 members of their former national Olympic committee, including its president, were kidnapped two years ago and have not been heard from.

Years before, when Saddam Hussein was in power, his son Uday was in charge of the Olympic committee. He tortured athletes who underperformed. The sprinter Dana Hussein Abdul-Razzaq, who will compete in Beijing, trains on a mortar-scarred track at Baghdad University. She has been shot at by a sniper and targeted by car bombers.

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Filed under miscellaneous, War in Iraq

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