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Iraqi athletes will head to Beijing after all

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The IOC and the Iraqi government have reached an agreement that will allow the war-torn country to send two athletes to the Beijing Games. The deadline for competitors entering the Games has passed for most sports, but the IOC said it could allow Iraq to send two track and field competitors to Beijing.

Here is the story as told by the IOC press release:

In a productive meeting at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, the IOC and the Government of Iraq agreed on a series of steps that will lead to a fully functioning, independent National Olympic Committee in Iraq. The agreement re-establishes the independent NOC of Iraq which will be allowed to take part in the Beijing Games.Iraqi athletes will compete in Beijing under the Iraqi flag, led by coaches and team leaders selected by the independent Iraqi National Olympic Committee. Five government representatives will be invited by the IOC as observers to the Games in Beijing. The agreement also calls for the transparent and fair election of a new, independent Iraqi National Olympic Committee, no later than the end of November 2008. This process will be overseen by the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia and will be held in cooperation with the Government of Iraq, and in accordance with the Olympic Charter.“I commend the government of Iraq for reaching an agreement that serves the long-term interest of Iraqi athletes,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said. “We have said all along that we want to see Iraqi athletes in Beijing.”

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The IOC had suspended Iraq from competing in the Games because of government interference with the country’s independent Olympic organizing committee. Several of the original committee’s members were kidnapped and remain missing.

Associated Press reports that the Tuesday compromise came about after Germany and China became involved in the discussions.

Two track and field athletes will attend the Beijing Games, but athletes who’d hoped to compete in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting lost out because the disagreement.

-- Greg Johnson


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