Giant on the move
Is ‘Lost Boy’ Lomong the right choice to carry U.S. flag?
They walked for hundreds of miles, many dying on the way of starvation and illness. Others were eaten by lions. But many survived, ending up in refugee camps in the near-desert plains of northern Kenya.
In 2001, nearly 4,000 of the “Lost Boys” were resettled in the United States. On Friday, one of them will have the honour of carrying the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Lopez Lomong, who left his home in the southern Sudan in 1991 as a six-year-old boy, is now a successful middle-distance runner. Chosen by his own team mates for the honour, he says Friday will be “the most exciting day ever in my life“.
Lomong left home and lost contact with his parents at the height of Sudan’s civil war between its mainly Arab north and its largely Christian south. It was a devastating conflict, which left around two million people dead.
That conflict is now over, but the Sudanese government continues to arm tribes to do their dirty work, human rights groups say, spreading death and misery in the western region of Darfur.
China, a major investor in Sudan’s oil industry and supplier of arms, stands accused of not doing enough to press Khartoum to end the crisis in Darfur.
Beijing decided to revoke the visa of Olympic gold medallist Joey Cheek this week, who is now an activist for Darfur. But it seems it cannot silence discussion of its role in Sudan.
Lomong’s story is an inspiring one and perhaps U.S. athletes will say that is why they chose him for the honour of carrying the flag. But it could also be interpreted as a political choice, a statement to the governments of Sudan and China.
What do you think? Was it the right choice? Is it a case of crossing the line between sport and politics? If so, does it matter?
PHOTO: Lopez Lomong celebrates winning the 1500 meters at the Reebok Grand Prix athletics meet in New York May 31, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn