Last Updated: Tue Mar 13, 2012 17:56 pm (KSA) 14:56 pm (GMT)

Small Syrian team for London Olympics has full IOC support

Anti-Assad protesters wave Syrian revolution flags during the London Olympics qualifying soccer match between Syria and Bahrain at Bahrain International Stadium. An IOC official says he expect four or five Syrian athletes to qualify for London. (Reuters)
Anti-Assad protesters wave Syrian revolution flags during the London Olympics qualifying soccer match between Syria and Bahrain at Bahrain International Stadium. An IOC official says he expect four or five Syrian athletes to qualify for London. (Reuters)

Syria will be present at the London Olympics despite ongoing violence in the country, with the International Olympic Committee backing a small group of athletes who could qualify for the Games, the IOC said on Tuesday.

A year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has already claimed some 8,000 lives in the country as fighting between Syrian forces and rebels increasingly resembles a full-blown civil war.

“We continue dealing with the athletes and we will try to make sure that Syrian athletes will be in London,” said Pere Miro, IOC Director of National Olympic Committees (NOC) relations and Olympic Solidarity.

“We continue dealing with the athletes and we will try to make sure that Syrian athletes will be in London,” said Pere Miro, IOC Director of National Olympic Committees (NOC) relations and Olympic Solidarity.

“We have been dealing in the past with the Syrian NOC to ensure that the money goes to the athletes. Now we are using more direct ways,” Miro told a small group of reporters.

All of the athletes who can win a spot for the London Games were currently training in Syria and had not left the country, Miro said.

He said he expected four or five athletes to qualify for London, mainly in athletics and swimming and as things stood at the moment they would march into the stadium under the Syrian flag.

“We are expecting this figure for athletes and then maybe another four or five officials (from Syria),” said Miro, adding among those automatically invited was the head of the country's Olympic Committee, General Mowaffak Joumaa.

“At the moment we treat the Syrian NOC as all the others but, sure, we keep our eye on the situation,” he said.

Miro said while Syria would be represented at the Games, the new nation of South Sudan was unlikely to be there given it had yet to have a single sports federation recognized internationally and it needed a minimum of five recognized federations.

Sudan's south became independent last July after a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal with its former civil war foe.

“South Sudan has been recognized by the United Nations but at this moment they have zero (federations recognized).

“At this moment we are very far from five so it will be very difficult to be in London,” Miro said.

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