News / Africa

South Sudan Marathoner Competes Under Olympic Flag

Marathon runner Guor Marial arrives at Heathrow Airport for the London 2012 Olympic Games, August 3, 2012.
Marathon runner Guor Marial arrives at Heathrow Airport for the London 2012 Olympic Games, August 3, 2012.
Anita Powell
LONDON — South Sudan was not able to get Olympic recognition in time to field a team at the London Games.  But the world’s newest nation has great hopes, and several impressive athletes competing under other flags.  The nation’s sports minister says the world should watch out come 2016.

When the International Olympic Committee suggested that marathoner Guor Marial run for Sudan in this year's games, he refused.

The runner, a citizen of the new nation of South Sudan, said he could not in good conscience run for a country whose forces killed 28 of his family members and kidnapped him twice during the decades-long civil war between the two nations.

He left Sudan at the age of 15 and went to the United States as a refugee.  But he cannot compete for the United States because he is not a citizen.  Instead, he chose to compete under the Olympic flag at this year’s games.

South Sudan became the world’s newest nation a year ago.

Olympic delay

Sports Minister Cirino Hiteng Ofuho says South Sudan was very quickly welcomed into the United Nations, the African Union, world soccer organization FIFA and the African football body.

But, he says, the International Olympic Committee said, "No."  Their process takes two years.  Ofuho says officials thought the IOC might waive some of its rules, but they did not.

“It is very disappointing, but we do understand that the IOC... has its own regulations, its own rules, even though we believed from the beginning that the IOC would be flexible like FIFA or the Confederation of African Football, that admitted South Sudan immediately without a lot of hindrance," said  Ofuho.

But, he adds South Sudan will still make its mark.  He praised Marial for his choice to participate as an independent.

"That is a very patriotic, very patriotic decision," he said. "They consulted me, and I told him, 'Guor Marial, you are a South Sudanese citizen, you are not an American yet, you are in the diaspora, you are a citizen of this country,' so therefore the IOC made a mistake to suggest to him to run under the flag of Sudan.  That I think was very insensitive."

Athletes present US, British teams

Although the nation does not have a team, South Sudanese athletes are taking star roles on the American and British teams.

Chicago Bulls player Luol Deng leads Britain’s basketball team.  And the U.S. team chose runner Lopez Lomong to be its flagbearer.  Lomong is one of Sudan’s famous Lost Boys, a group of 20,000 children displaced during the last civil war.

Ofuho says there is more to come in 2016.  He says his ministry is busy revamping athletic facilities in preparation.

"We have great potential in athletics," he said.  "We have great potential in football, or soccer, as they say.  We do have greater potential in basketball.  We have great potential in women's games like handball, volleyball, and other games like taekwondo.  Even we have games like wrestling and javelin, all of these games we are going to participate in."

No lack of support

Even without a team, South Sudanese athletes do not lack for support.

London resident Helen Mulla moved to Britain 30 years ago.  This year, she is watching the games with extra pride, and rooting for Marial.

“Good luck to him on Sunday, and I hope he wins, so that we can be in the next Olympics just because of him," said Mulla. "I am so proud that we do have one person.  It does not matter what part of South Sudan he is [from], but as long as he says he wants to run under the Olympic flag, not the Sudan flag, because he is from the Republic of South Sudan, and I am proud to say that I have one person representing the Republic of South Sudan running under the Olympic flag."

And, Ofuho says, the whole nation feels the same.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid