Iraqi Athletes In Trouble

IOC prez Rogge concerned about state of Iraqi athletics
Nov. 2, 2006
CBS wire reports

HAVANA – The president of the International Olympic Committee expressed concern Thursday about the plight of athletes in Iraq, citing threats to their safety and the lack of proper athletic infrastructure in the country.

Jacques Rogge, in Cuba to attend the Sport for All Congress, said the IOC plans to “offer Iraqi athletes the possibility of training in other nations” ahead of upcoming competitions.

Gunmen abducted a top Iraqi basketball official and a blind athletic coach on Wednesday. Athletes and sports officials have increasingly become targets of threats, kidnappings and assassination attempts, with an Iraqi international soccer referee seized just last month as he left the soccer federation’s offices.

Rogge inaugurated the sports congress on Wednesday, calling on the hundreds of health and sports specialists present to persuade more people to be physically active.

He revisited the issue Thursday, saying there has been a decrease in the number of children and teenagers playing sports, leading to negative consequences.

“We see, in particular, the obesity affecting children,” he said.

Rogge said the IOC’s top priority is to fight doping, corruption, violence and racism. Once his organization wins its battles against violence and corruption it can “convince parents to send their children off to practice sports,” Rogge said in a press conference.

Rogge’s visit comes as Cuba lobbies to get baseball back on the Olympic roster after it was dropped last year in an IOC vote. Baseball has been an Olympic sport since 1992, but will not be part of the 2012 London Games.

The earliest it can win reinstatement is 2009, when the IOC considers the sports program for the 2016 Games.

Rogge said in order to achieve reinstatement, baseball officials will have to convince the committee “that the best players will participate (in the Olympics), and submit themselves to the IOC’s rules against doping.”

Major League Baseball doesn’t allow players on its teams’ 40-man rosters to go to the Olympics.

The Associated Press News Service