IOC President Thomas Bach personally welcomed the South Sudan NOC, represented by its President Lt. Gen Wilson Deng Kuoirot and its Secretary General Tong Chor Malek Deran, into the Olympic fold and presented them with a certificate of recognition and an Olympic flag.
President Bach said: “With this recognition, we send a signal of hope to this young nation of South Sudan; a signal of hope because sport builds bridges between people and cultures. In sport all people are equal, all ethnic groups, all cultures and all religions are equal; a signal that South Sudan needs in difficult times.”
Wishing them a very bright future, he added: “We look forward to welcoming you at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where for the first time in your history, you will march behind your national flag.”
This recognition comes after years of collaboration between the IOC, the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) and the local sports bodies. The NOC of Sudan was also praised for its key role in facilitating the establishment of a South Sudanese National Olympic Committee.
“We would like to thank the NOC of Sudan who has been a real partner and friend,” stated President Bach. “On behalf of the entire Olympic Movement, I would like to thank you for your great cooperation with your South Sudanese neighbours. It is an example of what sport can do and demonstrates also what autonomy of sport from politics really means because despite political dispute, you have worked together with your friends and neighbours and have made this recognition possible.”
President Lt. Gen Wilson Deng Kuoirot said. “It is with a deep sense of honour and humility that we receive the privilege of being accepted into the worldwide family of the Olympic Movement. Over the past few months our young country underwent tremendous challenges of internal armed conflict. However, we firmly believe that this historic day of our acceptance into the IOC will be a milestone and a great vehicle for promoting repatriation, national unity, peace-building and development of our young nation. It will also give great hope and inspiration to the youth of the country.”
He added: “We will arm our young people with sport, and not with guns.”
The South Sudan NOC met the requirements for recognition as outlined in the Olympic Charter. These include the sport and technical requirements as well as the definition of “country” as defined in Rule 30.1 – “an independent State recognised by the international community.”
It has taken some time for the sports structures to be established in South Sudan, which became an independent country on 9 July 2011 and shortly thereafter, a UN Member State on 14 July 2011. At present, it counts seven Olympic sports federations.
While the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next summer will permit South Sudanese athletes to compete for the first time under their nation’s flag, it will not be the first time that they have competed in the Olympic Games. At London 2012, marathon runner and refugee from South Sudan, Guor Marial, was exceptionally authorised to compete as an Independent Olympic Athlete under the Olympic flag. Similarly, ahead of the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing last year, a promising young 400m runner from South Sudan, Margret Rumat Rumar Hassan, was exceptionally provided with a place in athletics and competed as an Independent Olympic Athlete. Both athletes are presently training and setting their sights on Rio 2016.
Watch Margret’s story from war zone to international spotlight.