London 2012: Syrian athletes make the most of Games while civil war rages on
Friday 03 August 2012
Athletes from Syria are enjoying their time in London despite the ongoing civil war in their home country.
The team have been spotted at some of London’s most iconic sights, including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. And a series of photographs posted on Syrian cyclist Omar Hasanen’s Facebook page showed them enjoying life a world away from the turmoil at home — before being hastily removed.
One showed two of the athletes in policemen’s hats and red uniforms. In others, they were pictured tucking into fast food in the athletes’ village, playing chess on a giant board and joining in with a band.
The Syrians — six men and four women — are competing in seven sports including boxing, high jump, hurdles, swimming and shooting. It is the country’s biggest team since the 1980 Moscow Games.
They have sought to blank out the civil war raging in their country, in which activists say more than 20,000 people have died in 17 months.
“We never talk about this,” said swimmer Bayan Jumah from Aleppo, scene of fierce fighting between president Assad’s troops and rebel forces. Jumah, 18, swam in the 100 metre freestyle heats on Wednesday — the day Assad ordered his soldiers to step up the attack on rebel enclaves in Aleppo.
She said: “I’m in touch with my family. In the centre there is nothing (no fighting). The problem is around.”
The team have managed to touch the hearts of spectators. Boxer Wessam Slamana, 26, won a standing ovation after losing his bout and said: “I am touched by the gesture everyone has shown here.”
However, despite the athletes’ efforts to carry on, the war does touch the Games.
Syrian National Olympic Committee chief General Mowaffak Joumaa was banned from entering Britain, and there have been calls for showjumper Ahmad Saber Hamcho, who reportedly said the Syrian team should represent the president as well as the country’s people, to be barred from the Games.
Juventus vs Real Madrid - Champions League LIVE! Latest score and updates from semi-final first leg
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1 player ratings: Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata on target - but who scored highest?
Gareth Bale performance slammed by Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Lee Dixon: 'His team-mates can't be happy'
David Beckham reveals secret of his success: I 'stayed in to watch Match of the Day' rather than go out with friends on a Saturday night
Two new members of Floyd Mayweather's The Money Team blag their way into entourage to celebrate to celebrate with Justin Bieber
- 1 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show