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Iraq Banned From Olympics: Government Broke IOC Rule

Iraq has been banned from participating in the Beijing Olympics because the government replaced the country's Olympic committee originally elected in 2004. The Olympic Charter states that all nations must have committees free from political influence. Now, Iraq's seven qualifying athletes — two rowers, two sprinters, an archer, a weightlifter, and a judo competitor — cannot fulfill their Olympic dreams because of their government's quarrel with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The dispute began in May when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government disbanded the Iraqi Olympic Committee, maintaining that the members were corrupt and won their spots through phony elections. The action broke IOC rules, and prompted the banning. Following the decision, the general secretary of the current Iraqi Olympic Committee said, "it is a blow to Iraq and its international reputation, its athletes, and its youth."

Although Iraq faces problems much more urgent than exclusion from the Olympics, watching fellow citizens compete with the rest of the world could have raised Iraqis' spirits and potentially inspired further reconciliation. Should the Olympics make an exception for Iraq, or stick by its standard of not mixing politics with sports?

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