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Iraqis delighted just to be here
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08:55, August 21, 2008

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· Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
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Not all Olympic dreams are about winning gold medals. For some competitors, like the three who represented Iraq at the Beijing Games, simply taking part is reward enough.

"It is the dream of every Iraqi athlete and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the Games," Tiras Anwaya, chef de mission of the Iraqi team, told China Daily yesterday.

"We have done our best," he said.

"Being part of the Beijing Olympic family was the most important thing for us."

Iraq was represented by rowers Haidar Nozad and Hamzah Hussein Jebur in the men's double sculls, and by Dana Hussein in the women's 100 m and 200 m.

While no one was expecting any of them to win a medal, Nozad and Jebur managed a creditable 14th place, while Hussein was eliminated in the first round of both sprints.

Iraq has in fact won only one Olympic medal - a bronze in the lightweight division of the men's weightlifting at the Rome Games of 1960 - since making its debut in London in 1948.

The Iraqi trio was given the go-ahead to compete in Beijing only at the last minute, when the International Olympic Committee lifted the bans it had imposed on the country in May due to its government's "serious interference" in the country's Olympic affairs.

Anwaya said he was delighted when he was told the good news.

"When we heard, we were so happy we rushed out and booked our flights," he said.

For Hussein, competing in Beijing was the fulfillment of a sporting ambition.

"I am so proud to have represented Iraq in the Olympics," she said.

"This was my dream. If I had been told I couldn't compete, I would have been devastated," the 21-year-old said.

What made Hussein's participation even more impressive was that she arrived at the Olympic Village without any running shoes.

Thankfully, Song Wei, who works at the village heard about her plight and supplied her with a pair of spikes.

"When I heard that the athletes from Iraq and Cambodia had no proper running shoes, I felt so sad," Song said.

Source: China Daily

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