IOC working to get Syrian athletes to London Games

By Stephen Wilson

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 10:15 a.m. MDT

President of the International Olympic Committee, IOC, Belgian Jacques Rogge speaks during the opening of the executive board's meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 13, 2012.

Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi, Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The IOC is working with a handful of Syrian athletes to help them qualify for the Olympics, hopeful they will make it to the London Games in spite of the deadly spiral of violence shaking the country.

Pere Miro, the IOC's director of relations with national Olympic committees, said Tuesday that the international body is providing funding to athletes in Syria and believes that four or five could qualify from track and field and swimming.

"We want to try to make sure that the Syrian athletes will be in London," he said. "We have a few under our control. We will continue supporting them. We will do our best."

Miro said the athletes were training inside Syria, not abroad. In addition to individual athletes, Syria's soccer team still has an outside chance of qualifying for the Olympics.

The U.N. estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed in the past 12 months since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began.

Because of the conflict, Miro said, the IOC is funneling its funding directly to the athletes rather than through the Syrian Olympic Committee.

The Syrian body, which is based in Damascus and headed by Gen. Mowaffak Joumaa, remains fully recognized by the IOC. Syria also has an IOC member, Samih Moudallal.

"For us, the NOC is a normal NOC," Miro said. "It's not suspended. There are no sanctions against the NOC. We continue having normal relations."

As things stand, if the Syrian athletes qualify, they will be under the control of the national Olympic committee in London. Officials from the national committee would also be invited to the games.

"That is the situation today," Miro said. "I don't know what it will be in May."

In the event of a breakup of Syria or other events affecting the national body, the IOC would try to bring the athletes to London and allow them to compete under the Olympic flag. Such an arrangement was implemented in the past for athletes form East Timor and the former Yugoslavia.

"One of the policies of the IOC is to do everything to get the athletes in the games," Miro said. "We operate normally through the NOC, but if not, the IOC will take measures."

Miro said Syria's Olympic committee is "autonomous" and "independent," although some officials may also hold high state-level positions. While the IOC has suspended some national bodies for government interference, that is not the case with Syria.

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