SBD/Issue 222/Olympics

Sudan Refugee, Team Darfur Member Lomong To Carry U.S. Flag

Lomong Discusses Being U.S. Flagbearer
This Morning On NBC's "Today"
U.S. track & field athlete Lopez Lomong, a Sudanese refugee, yesterday was chosen by U.S. Olympic teammates to carry the U.S. flag at tomorrow's Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games, a move that "will cast an additional spotlight on the controversy over humanitarian abuses" in Darfur, according to Shipley & Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. Lomong is an active member of Team Darfur, a "group of athletes that aims to raise awareness about the conflict in Sudan and has been pressing China to do more to help end the fighting." The selection of Lomong came "just hours after the Chinese government rescinded the visa" of U.S. Gold Medal-winning speed skater and human rights group Team Darfur co-Founder Joey Cheek (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). Cheek said of the selection, "I think it's a brilliant story, regardless of the Darfur connection" ("Today," NBC, 8/7). USA TODAY's Lloyd & Patrick note it is "unclear what, if anything, Lomong might say at a Friday news conference about the situation in Darfur" (USA TODAY, 8/7).

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE? In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan writes there is "no more perfect choice" than Lomong to serve as flag bearer, both because of his "achievements and because of the pitch-perfect message of defiance it represents" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/7). In Seattle, Art Thiel writes the choice "seems an inspired one among those American athletes who want to make a political statement without being rude to their extraordinarily hospitable hosts." Thiel: "No one says it's anything more than a coincidence. But rarely in Olympic politics are things as they seem" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 8/7). REUTERS' Simon Denyer writes Lomong’s story "is an inspiring one," but it "could also be interpreted as a political choice, a statement to the governments of Sudan and China" (REUTERS.com, 8/7). REUTERS' Mitch Phillips wrote the selection is "likely to provoke extensive debate about China's relations with Sudan" and "could embarrass" both countries (REUTERS, 8/6).

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