Syrian athletes to attend Olympics
London (CNN) — Syrian athletes will be allowed to attend this summer’s London Olympics but officials from the war-torn country will not be welcome, says UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
“I don’t think we should punish the athletes for the sins of the region. Syrian athletes will be taking part in the Games, and that is right,” Cameron said at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday.
But representatives of the President Bashar al-Assad regime will not be welcome, he added.
“Britain has led efforts within the European Union and elsewhere to institute asset bans, travel freezes and punishing sanctions against this despicable regime and anyone covered by one of those travel bans will not be welcomed in London,” Cameron said.
His message of support for Syrian athletes came on the same day as a visit by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge.
Rogge is in London along with other IOC officials to see at first hand how final preparations for the Games (which start on July 27) are progressing.
Earlier this month, Rogge said there were between six and eight Syrian athletes who could potentially qualify for the Games, but warned that any athlete implicated in war crimes would be banned.
He added that the IOC was currently working with the United Nations (U.N.) to verify lists of those inside the country who are wanted for war crimes.
According the U.N.’s most recent estimates, more than 9,000 people have been killed since the conflict between Syrian forces and rebels began in March 2011.