Syrian athletes could compete under neutral Olympic flag


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The Independent Online

Syrian athletes could compete at the London 2012 Olympics under a neutral flag as the crippling uprising against President Basar al-Assad rages on.

It is one of the "ad hoc" solutions which could be explored by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board if the Syrian unrest compromises the country's national Olympic committee.

Athletes could compete under the Olympic Flag - a scenario seen at Sydney 2000 for Olympians from East Timor, the IOC's director of relations with national Olympic committees (NOC) and Olympic solidarity Pere Miro told the Around the Rings website.

More than 7,500 people have been killed in the year-long conflict between Syrian forces and rebels, according to United Nations estimates, sparking concern about whether officials close to the regime should be allowed at the London 2012 Games.

The national committee, headed by General Mowaffak Joumaa who is believed to be a friend of President Assad, would automatically be invited to attend the opening ceremony.

The IOC said it would withdraw his accreditation only if UN sanctions were imposed on him or his committee.

Mr Miro said the status of Syria was being monitored, although the IOC had not been in the country for six months.

Due to the "confused" situation in Syria, the IOC, which usually deals directly with the NOC, is now finding "more direct ways" to support the athletes.

Mr Miro said: "We continue to deal with the athletes in Syria and we will try to make sure there are Syrian athletes at the London Olympic Games."

The Government is expected to unveil further details of the latest aid package later today.