South Sudan admitted to Olympics, will send athletes to Rio in 2016

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has accepted South Sudan as the 206th member of the modern Olympic movement and the world’s newest country will send a team of athletes to the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Athletes of South Sudan have found it nearly impossible to train amid a civil war that began in December 2013 that has left thousands of people dead. Many South Sudanese athletes currently train in Kenya.

Wilson Deng Kuoirot, who heads South Sudan's national olympic committee, vowed to arm the country’s children with sports instead of guns.
Wilson Deng Kuoirot, who heads South Sudan’s national olympic committee, vowed to arm the country’s children with sports instead of guns.

“All the sports facilities are broken down,” said Wilson Deng Kuoirot, a top army officer who is South Sudan’s first national Olympic committee president. “Most of the children now have joined the armed groups. We are going to arm them with sports instead of with guns.”

Tong Deran, South Sudan Olympic committee secretary general, said one of the country’s first Olympians will likely be 16-year-old runner Margrat Rumat Hasan, who he said had often “trained without being able to eat breakfast” because of the civil war.

“We have nothing, we are starting from scratch,” said Deran, who spoke of how the committee hoped to “empower” young athletes like Hasan. “We are going to take care of her like a daughter.”

South Sudan became an independent nation four years ago, but the IOC had to wait to admit the country because it struggled to get the world body’s required recognition for five sports federations. South Sudan is now recognized for athletics (track and field), basketball, soccer, handball, judo, table tennis and tae kwon do.

South Sudan will rely on international aid to build up its sports infrastructure. “Let me wish you a very bright future,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “We will stand by your side.”

Along with athletes in individual sports, South Sudan also hopes to send basketball, volleyball and handball teams to Rio.

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