Guor Marial, the South Sudanese marathoner whose man-without-a-country Olympic plight was first brought to light by the Tribune five days ago, will be able to compete in the London Summer Games under the Olympic flag.
's executive board approved Marial's participation Saturday.
Since Marial does not have a passport from any country, he still needs to get the documents necessary for him to leave and re-enter both the United States and the United Kingdom, according to Brad Poore, the California attorney who befriended him and advocated for his Olympic participation after they met at last year's Twin Cities Marathon.
"I want to thank the IOC for hearing my request and for giving South Sudan its spot in the Olympics," Marial said Saturday via telephone.
Marial, a refugee from the civil war in the Sudan, had made the Olympic "A" qualifying standard but his participation was in doubt because his homeland, since July 9, 2011 the independent Republic of South Sudan, has yet to establish a national Olympic Committee. That is the usual prerequisite for Olympic participation.
The IOC approval of Marial as an independent athlete means he will appear in the race - and Friday's opening ceremony, if he can get to London in time - in clothing that does not have any flag or national identification.
"I am fine with that because I will be carrying South Sudan and its flag in my heart," Marial said. "All South Sudan will see me, and it will give my country hope in the world community."
Marial is a 2011 graduate of Iowa State who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. He was allowed to resettle in the United States with refugee status in 2001. He has a U.S. green card and has begun the process of acquiring U.S. citizenship.
For his full story as it appeared on chicagotribune.com,
Because his Olympic participation remained uncertain, Marial had been gearing his training toward the Oct. 7
. He said he was in the middle of a training cycle, working on speed endurance and volume.
"I still have a week of training to do some speed," he said, "and I think I still have the volume from San Diego," he said.
Marial ran the June 3 San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 55 seconds. It was his second marathon, following a 2:14:32 at Twin Cities last October.