South Sudan-born marathon runner Guor Marial will be allowed to take to the start line at the London Olympics after the International Olympic Committee granted him permission to run under the Olympic flag.
The 28-year-old, who fled to the United States from Sudan at the age of eight after 28 members of his family were killed by the Sudanese government, cannot compete for the newly formed South Sudan as it does not have a National Olympic Committee and thus is not yet a ratified Olympic state.
He could not compete for the US as he does not possess an American passport, although he does have a green card allowing him to live there, and he rejected Sudan’s invitation to compete for them for as he did not consider himself a citizen of that country.
The situation looked as though Marial would not be able to take part in London but the IOC executive board has agreed to allow him to take part as an independent athlete. “I was getting ready to go for a run. Wow. This is so exciting,” he said.
“It’s hard to describe. I’m speechless. The body temperature is up. I have to train like an Olympian now.”
Sudan and South Sudan came close to all-out war in April following border clashes, the worst violence since South Sudan declared its independence a year ago under a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war.
“The voice of South Sudan has been heard,” said Marial. “The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there. The dream has come true. The hope of South Sudan is alive.”
Marial said he’ll ask his father — who still lives in South Sudan — to travel to the nearest city to watch him compete on TV. He added: “Most important is the people of South Sudan. They struggle so much, so if I can accomplish something, I can help.”
“That’s why every morning, I get up, I put on my shoes and I train.”