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South Sudan refugee to run marathon in Olympic colours

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July 21, 2012 (LONDON) - Guor Marial, a marathon runner born in what is now the Republic of South Sudan, will run in the London 2012 Olympics but not wearing the flag of the newly-independent country.

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Guor Marial, 28, runs along a street in Flagstaff, Arizona July 21, 2012. The marathon runner born in what is now South Sudan will be allowed to run under the Olympic flag in London, (Reuters

The 28-year-old athlete fled to the United States during Sudan’s two-decade civil war, which in 2005 led to a peace deal allowing the southern part of the country to secede last year.

South Sudan is now a member of the United Nations, African Union and other international bodies but has not yet formed a National Olympic Committee, so it cannot send a team to the Games.

With the games opening on Friday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) initially suggested that Marial runs representing Sudan. The Sudanese team had invited him to join them but Marial who lost 28 members of his family in the war, told Reuters that he turned down the offer.

"I lost my family and relatives, and in South Sudan two million people died," he told Alert Net, Reuters’ humanitarian news service, by telephone from his home in Flagstaff, Arizona.

"For me to just go and represent Sudan is a betrayal of my country first of all, and is disrespecting my people who died for freedom." Marial was one of the, estimated four million people who were displaced by the conflict.

With the two government’s of both nations still trying to resolve their differences other many contentious issues, and a brief border conflict in April this year, relations are still tense.

Despite living and working in the US, the Iowa University chemistry graduate, who works with people with mental disabilities, cannot represent the US as he is not a full citizen and has no passport.

He said that he appreciated the Sudanese team’s offer but told Alert Net on Tuesday that "the consequences of me representing Sudan are bigger than me going to the Olympics".

"At this level, as an athlete, I don’t just represent my family, but the whole of South Sudan. It’s a very heavy responsibility to carry. It’s very important for me to make the right decision," he added.

Refugees International (RI) responded to the IOC’s proposal that he represent Sudan by writing to the organisation’s President, Jacques Rogge, requesting that he compete as an independent under the Olympic flag.

RI President Michel Gabaudan wrote: "Numerous members of Mr Marial’s family have been killed by Sudanese security forces, and he himself has suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of Sudanese police."

"The threats against him are serious and were recognized as such when he gained refugee status in the United States. Therefore, asking Mr Marial to submit once again to Sudanese authority as an Olympic athlete is not acceptable."

Marial’s personal best in a marathon is two hours 12 minutes 55 seconds, achieved in San Diego, California, last month. He is not expected to win a medal but could finish in the top 10 or 20.

Marial arrived in the US aged 16 having left Sudan two years earlier after he was attacked by Sudanese soldiers in his home at night.

"My dream is to represent South Sudan. It’s just a matter of time", he said, while awaiting the decision.

On hearing that he had been accepted as a independent athlete he told Associated Press that "the voice of South Sudan has been heard.”

“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.

“The dream has come true. The hope of South Sudan is alive.”

Marial will be one of four independent competitors at the London Games. The three others coming from the Netherlands Antilles.

However, Marial’s case is the first of its kind, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

Marial has less than a week to get to the UK capital to take part in the opening ceremony before his event on August 12, the last day of the Games. He has asked his father to travel to a town with a television so he can watch him compete.

Adams said that he expected Marial’s backers to "move heaven and earth for him to get here for the ceremony.”

“I used to hate running. I was running back home to save my life,” he said in an interview with AP.

Speaking of when he discovered he could go to the Olympics, Marial said: "I was getting ready to go for a run [...] Wow. This is so exciting. It’s hard to describe. I’m speechless. The body temperature is up. I have to train like an Olympian now.”

(ST)

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  • 22 July 2012 07:09, by marie

    God bless you Guor. Though you are still stateless, but it’s a blessing to see you among the best in the olympics. We would see lifting the flag of RSS in Brazil. We are proud of your determination and success. This is what we wish our young guys to achieve instead of indulging in gangestership. Keep up the good work and God will see you through. Amen

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    • 22 July 2012 07:30, by Tutbol

      Goodstuff, use your ethleticability, your education and there, we will! Garang use to say, the lost boys and and South sudanese, intelectuals and other marginelised peoples of the Sudan are the SPLM. N.B, SPLM is a political wing when the SPLA is the army wing, but are SUDANESE in one.

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    • 22 July 2012 07:38, by omoni jr.

      wow,God bless you Guor,
      but dont bring a shame to us like Lopez Lomong,

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  • 22 July 2012 08:26, by Umoja

    Guer, God bless you. That is just procedural but the reality is that you are a SOUTH SUDANESE, whether you run as an independent or what name but you are representing South Sudan, God knows and even world knows that.

    One advise: Disassociate yourself from Sudan terrorists. We will pray for you.

    There you go God is with you.

    Umoja

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  • 22 July 2012 08:34, by AUGUSTINO DENG

    Mr. Guor Marial,

    Thanks you so much for your input. You are the best optimistic Hero. On the other word, hero does not mean someone who carried gun only, but anybody who is iniatively protecting his country from any causes. I know you are one of the lost boy as I do. I am proud of you. The whole lost boys of South Sudan fought for the betterment of our country. Lost boy oyee, jech amer oyee.

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    • 22 July 2012 10:13, by Manyieldit

      I wish God create other nine Guors to be distributed to other nine states of South Sudan, there we would have had a better Nation with sense of Patriotism. Go on Guor God will give u the victory and will be dedicated to our martyrs

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  • 22 July 2012 10:13, by Marolditapei

    Thank God for our new King or Dr.Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon. Corruption must be condemned publicly by all. Student Dinka Dominated SPLM/A is mourning because the list of corrupt leaders is full of his Awan Chan corrupt boys. But president Salva and Riek Machar are not corrupt like the rest. Dom wew, dom wew, dom wew, dom wew. All the members of dom wew society should be judged one by one.

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    • 22 July 2012 11:07, by Dhong Bang

      Marolditapei, why are you repeating this everywhere like Mohamed Ali. Please check first whether this is the right article or not before you post your comments

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  • 22 July 2012 22:18, by Elijah B. Elkan

    Dear Mr. Marial,

    Remember you have a country South Sudan. Regardless of what happen during Olympic sport events — South Sudan will always be your home. This is just a icing on the cake, just do your very best. My sincere wishes for a bright future, and good luck and god bless you sir.

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  • 23 July 2012 02:25, by JAMES KUOI STEPHEN

    Wouderfull pleasure to gains strength and energical sport in the field of the true, that your flag is the dignity of identity to wear it. But participate with the sport interests,however,you will wear it one day.The war of 21years was harder of all things. Development will promote your decision of choice.

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  • 23 July 2012 09:45, by Akolde Nhiak Jinub

    Bro Guor Marial, Go, you are coming fm a nation of South Sudan with diverse skills where running n other gifted talents are yet to be discovered. Be like Late Madut Bol of NBA. He did his best n he was superB. Now it is ur time to do ur best! We are solidly behind U although with no material n moral support, but in spirt, we r with U! Show the world who South Sudanese are! U r our candle to light!

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