The New, the Naughty and the War-Torn ; Matthew Beard Profiles Some of the Nations Whose Athletes Have Had to Overcome the Odds to Participate at the Olympic Games
Beard, Matthew, The Evening Standard (London, England)
NORTH KOREA Head of state: Supreme leader Kim Jong-un Medals: 43 What's the problem? To the athletes of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, the Olympics is a cruel reminder of their global isolation. They stay in a private compound at the athletes' village, which must seem more like an open prison to them. Team officials forbid them from going beyond the perimeter fence except for training and competition and the athletes' parade. Sightseeing is strictly off limits. Although they have in recent Games marched with South Korea as one nation at the opening ceremony, the show of unity was little more than a facade.
Attendance record: North Korea has competed in most summer Games since 1972 though it joined the Sovietled boycott of Los Angeles in 1984. It has a patchy attendance record at the Paralympics since the disabled are considered an underclass.
GHANA Head of state: President John Atta Mills Medals: Four What's the problem? The IOC suspended the west African nation last year after the Ghanaian government sought to take over the country's Olympic committee in a breach of the Olympic charter. Although it was readmitted six months later, the picture is far from clear as the government's candidate -- former Olympic triple jumper Professor Francis Dodoo -- was recently installed as president of the committee. Attendance record: First competed under colonial name of Gold Coast in 1952. Boycotted 1976 Montreal Games over the IOC's refusal to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had toured apartheid South Africa. Also joined the US-led boycott of 1980 Moscow Games.
AFGHANISTAN Head of state: President Hamid Karzai Medals: One (Rohullah Nikpai, bronze, taekwondo) What's the problem? Competed in Athens and Beijing Games against the backdrop of a US-led invasion of the country. The team was cheered in Beijing at the opening ceremony. Attendance record: Banned from the 2000 Sydney Games because of the Taliban's discrimination against women and prohibition of sport. Reinstated for the 2004 Athens Games when two athletes, Robina Muqim Yaar and Friba Razayee, became the first women to compete for Afghanistan. First competed in the 1936 Berlin Games.
SOUTH SUDAN Head of state: General Salva Kiir Mayardit Medals: None What's the problem? The world's newest nation gained independence from its northern neighbour in July last year. But time is running out for it to establish a proper Olympic committee. If this is not achieved then the athletes will compete as neutrals under the Olympic flag and, in the unlikely event they win a medal, the Olympic anthem will be played at the award ceremony. Attendance record: The Republic of Sudan sent nine athletes to Beijing, its second Games. …