Should Syria Compete in the Olympics?

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Should Syria Compete in the Olympics?

Should Syria be allowed to compete in the Olympics?

That's the debate that's currently raging in England, where the 2012 Olympics will get underway next month in London.

The government of Syria has been slaughtering its citizens for the past year.

And no matter what you call the crisis--a civil war, a revolution or just a government crackdown on a popular uprising--the facts remain the same: thousands and thousands of Syrian citizens have been killed by government forces. will be featuring tons of Summer Olympics betting odds here

In light of that massacre, many believe Syria should not be allowed to participate in the upcoming Olympics.

They argue that countries have been banned before because of the despicable actions of their governments, most notably South Africa, which was banned from the Olympics for years until it repealed its racist Apartheid policies.

But others say politics should have no part in whether or not a nation is permitted to attend the Olympics.

Plenty of countries with governments that oppress their own people are allowed in the Olympics--China and Cuba come quickly to mind.

And of course, until it collapsed, the Soviet Union was a perennial Olympic participant.

As of now, Syria has not been officially banned from the 2012 Olympics, but that could change.

The decision is up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body of the Olympic Games.

Whether Syria participates in the Olympics or not really won't have much bearing on how the Games play out, though, as Syria has never been much of a factor in Olympic competition.

In its history, Syrian athletes have won only three Olympic medals--one each of gold, silver and bronze.

The most recent medal came in 2004 in Athens, Greece, when Syrian boxer Nasser Al Shami earned a third-place bronze fighting in the heavyweight division.

Prior to that, a Syrian woman, Ghada Shouaa, earned a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta by winning the heptathlon.

Syria's first-ever Olympic medal, a silver in freestyle wrestling, was earned in Los Angeles 1984 in the heavyweight division by an American citizen of Syrian heritage, Joe Atiyeh, who was allowed to compete on Syria's team.

Yes, that's the same Joe Atiyeh who along with his brother, Dennis, would go on to own and operate one of the world's first offshore sportsbooks, English Sports Betting (ESB), first located in Antigua and later, Jamaica.

The brothers eventually were arrested by Federal authorities in the USA and charged with operating an illegal sports betting operation.

The charges against Joe were later dropped, while Dennis went on trial and was acquitted.

ESB later relocated to Ireland, where it was renamed the Irish Nickel.

It eventually went out of business.

By Tom Somach Staff Writer

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