عربي | كوردى



Legal dispute threatens Iraq’s Olympic chances

Legal dispute threatens Iraq’s Olympic chances

2019/06/16 | 03:40

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)- Day after day, weight lifter Safaa Rashed Aljumaili hits a worn-down Baghdad gym to train for next year’s Olympics, but despite all his grit, politics could keep him from competing.The single air-conditioning unit in the dilapidated facility is out of service, leaving Aljumaili to pump dumbbells and loaded bars with little relief from 45°C heat.The gym’s walls look like they could crumble at any moment — much like the athlete’s hopes.“We don’t know what to do anymore. I have to participate in six qualifier tournaments to get to Tokyo, but I’ve already missed two because of the problems in sport in this country,” the 29-year-old said.These “problems” are a spiraling dispute between the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports, a power struggle that has left aspiring Olympians without the necessary funds to train properly.Iraq has competed in the Olympics since 1948, winning a single silver medal in 1960 for weight lifting.Under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the committee was led by his eldest son, Uday, whose reputation for violence included the alleged torture of soccer players who he deemed to have under-performed.When the US-led invasion toppled Saddam in 2003, all government bodies were dissolved in favor of the coalition-run administration.Today’s dispute stems from this moment. The ministry says that the committee’s status was never re-established after 2003, so its finances should be managed by the ministry.“We requested a commission take control of the Olympic Committee’s finances until a new law can regulate its legal status,” ministry legal expert Mohammed Hadi said.Since February, that commission has been in control of the US$25 million allocated to the committee in this year’s budget, but the committee points to its management of Iraqi teams at several Games since 2003 and the regular membership elections it has held — without objection by the ministry.



For athletes, the legal limbo has already cut off the monthly stipends they rely on to prepare for competitions.Dressed in his blue gi, judo athlete Ahmad Daoud runs laps around a sparse room to train for the Games, as Baghdad lacks a dojo specifically for the Olympics.The 23-year-old earns just US$700 a month from the Al-Jaish Judo Club after losing the US$400 stipend he received from the committee.With his revenue slashed, Daoud said it looks increasingly unlikely he will be able to afford the six training sessions abroad he had planned to attend before the Games.“We don’t know if we can continue training,” he said.Committee treasurer Sarmad Abdulilah said that the ministerial commission is already overstepping its bounds.“The government’s monitoring of the Olympic Committee’s expenditures is normal, but the ministry’s monitoring of the athletic federations’ work is unacceptable,” he said.Those federations are indeed fuming. They have already accused the ministry of embezzlement.Mustafa Saleh, head of the Iraqi Weightlifting Federation, said that the ministry promised his athletes huge sums after last year’s Asia Championships in Jakarta.“It pledged endowments of US$25,000 to Safaa Aljumaili and US$17,000 to Salwan Jassem Abboud, who snagged a silver medal for heavyweights, plus the same amount for the federation,” Saleh said. “We never received anything. Where’s the money?”









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