| LONDON, July 18
LONDON, July 18 A refugee from Sudan's civil war
who became a top distance runner after moving to the United
States is fighting for last-minute permission to compete in the
London Olympics as an independent athlete.
Guor Marial, 28, who was born in southern Sudan at the start
of the conflict, would have liked to run the marathon for South
Sudan, which became an independent country last year.
The world's newest country has not yet established a
National Olympic Committee, however, so it cannot send a team to
the Games, which open next week.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suggested that
Marial runs for Sudan, which has invited him to join their team,
the runner told AlertNet, a humanitarian news service run by
Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Marial, who lost 28 members of his family in the war, has
"I lost my family and relatives, and in South Sudan two
million people died," he said by telephone from Flagstaff,
Arizona, where he lives.
"For me to just go and represent Sudan is a betrayal of my
country first of all, and is disrespecting my people who died
South Sudan gained independence last July after a 2005 peace
deal ended more than two decades of war between the mostly
Christian south and Arab north. Tensions remain high following
clashes in contested borderlands and rows over oil payments.
Rights group Refugees International (RI) wrote to IOC
President Jacques Rogge on Tuesday to request that Marial be
allowed to compete as an independent under the Olympic flag.
"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," RI President
Michel Gabaudan wrote.
"The threats against him are serious and were recognised 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."
The IOC was not immediately available for comment.
Marial cannot race for the United States, even though he has
permanent residency, because athletes have to be full citizens
of the countries they represent.
In a marathon in San Diego, California, last month Marial
ran a personal best, finishing in two hours 12 minutes 55
"If I did get permission to run in London, the shape I'm in
right now, I think I might be in the top 15 to 20," said the
chemistry graduate, who works with people with mental
disabilities when he is not training.
Marial left Sudan at the age of 14 following an attack when
Sudanese soldiers entered his home at night. He was knocked
unconscious when a soldier smashed his jaw with a rifle.
The athlete, who arrived in the United States when he was
16, said he appreciated Sudan's offer but it was impossible to
"In my situation, the consequences of me representing Sudan
are bigger than me going to the Olympics," he said in the
interview late on Tuesday.
"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.
"My dream is to represent South Sudan. It's just a matter of
(Reporting by Tim Large; Editing by Clare Fallon)