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IOC lends Syrian athletes a hand

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

Pere Miro, the IOC’s director of relations with national Olympic committees, said Tuesday the international body is providing funding to the athletes and believes 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, according to his latest information, the athletes are 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 sending 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.

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.


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