Marathon runner Guor Marial arrives at Heathrow Airport for the London 2012 Olympic Games August 3, 2012. Marial is competing as an independent Olympic athlete because his newly-established country, South Sudan, has not had time to create a National Olympic Committee.
Marial qualified for the Olympics at the Twin Cities marathon last year. But the officials mistakenly marked his nation as Sudan not South Sudan (the brand-new country that had just become independent). Sudan contacted him and offered him a spot on their team, but Marial refused saying that competing for them would “betray his people.” He was able to flee the country for the United States, but several of his siblings were not so lucky.
But South Sudan has no infrastructure or Olympic committee. After much wrangling (and the intervention of lawyers and Marial’s Senator), the IOC allowed Marial to compete as an independent athlete. The resulting paperwork nightmare, began in October 2011 and kept Marial from walking in the Opening Ceremonies. (x)
I am so, so glad that he finally made it to London! At Heathrow, he told reporters that he would be running “for the world.” (x)