South Sudanese Marathoner to Compete Under Olympic Flag

This post is part of our special coverage London Olympics 2012.

Guor Marial, an athlete from South Sudan, will be participating in the London 2012 Olympics, but not under his country's flag. Marial will be competing in the longest race of the Games – the men’s marathon – as an independent.

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. It formally declared independence on 9 July, 2011 and has not been recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as yet.

Martina Nicolls wrote about Guor on Feast or Famine blog:

“Guor Marial will run as an independent athlete in clothing without a country flag or identification. He will race under the Olympic flag. The 28-year old will compete in the marathon which takes place on August 12. Marial’s country of birth South Sudan, gained independence a year ago and is yet to form a national Olympic committee. His country of current destination is (United States of ) America. Marial, a permanent resident in America, is in the process of gaining American citizenship. However he is not yet a US citizen and cannot therefore run under the United States flag.”

Guor Marial will be in London for the men's marathon. Image courtesy of

The IOC initially urged Marial to compete on behalf of Sudan, but Marial refused to represent the country he fled when he was 15 years old. Rajib Sen wrote:

Guor Marial was born in Southern Sudan at the start of the long-drawn conflict in that country which resulted in the creation of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, only last year. Thus, it has not yet established a National Olympic Committee, so it cannot send a team to the Games which open (this) week, which leaves Marial unable to represent his own country. The IOC has suggested that he runs for Sudan, which has invited him to join their team but Marial who lost 28 members of his family in the war has refused. “I lost my family and relatives and in South Sudan two million people died,” he said by telephone from Flagstaff, Arizona, USA where he lives. “For me to just go and represent Sudan is a betrayal of my country first of all and is disrespecting my people who died for freedom.

There are two other athletes who will compete under the Olympic flag:

As many as 204 countries will be participating at the London Olympic Games opening next week. But Philipine van Aanhotl and Reginald de Windt will not be part of any of their contingents. They will compete (as) Independent Olympic participants only because they will represent no nation. They were citizens of the Netherlands Antilles of the Caribbean Islands, a country that was dissolved on 10th October 2010. Accordingly, the Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee withdrew its membership of the IOC. That’s how two Olympic-standard athletes were left stranded without a country to represent.

Nick Weldon of Runner’s World blog interviewed Marial:

If I get permission, all I can do is go there and be open-minded. You never know. But right now it’s important for me to just be there, to show the world and South Sudanese people. I am here. You are here. You are a country. You are here. Which means, next time, 2016, it’s not going to be me there alone. There are a couple of kids, when they see me this year; it’s going to motivate them. It’s going to make me happy if I can see that kind of thing happen.

This post is part of our special coverage London Olympics 2012.

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