Changing China

Giant on the move

Is ‘Lost Boy’ Lomong the right choice to carry U.S. flag?

August 7, 2008

Lomong celebratesWhen militiamen swept into their villages on horseback in the early 1990s, shooting, burning and raping as they went, tens of thousands of young Sudanese boys were forced to flee for their lives.

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


I don’t understand the US team at all. They’re in China because they insist that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, yet they chose a flag bearer to contradict that statement. Either there’s no politics in sports or there is, you can’t have it both ways. If they think the 2 should mix, then why are they there in the first place? They should’ve just stayed home. I supposed they needed to go because they want their moment in the sun, for their sponsors and endorsement $$$$, but then choose this flag bearer to show how magnanimous they are, who cares if the host thinks it’s an insult. It’s so hypocritical!

In any case I hope Lopez Lomong has a good agent coz he should know it’s time to cash in. It’s the American way.

Posted by AB | Report as abusive

Absolutely the best choice of athlete to carry the American flag at the Olympic opening ceremonies. It has been my pleasure to be associated with 50 of these young men in San Jose, CA. These young men are amazing survivors who overcame adversities and miseries to become proud American citizens. They are an example of hope and courage to all American refugees. I am so proud to have been a part of their progress in America. Way to go United States Olympic Committee. You could not have chosen a more appropriate and deserving representative. It is my sincerest hope, that the political implications of the USOC’s choice can be profound for the relief of the persecuted of Darfur.

Posted by bobbie mckenna | Report as abusive

Nothing could be better. Run, Lomong run. You’re not lost anymore.


This will be a great embarrassment to the Chinese government and as much as I love my country and the Olympics, I’m gonna fall out with a grand mal seizure when China starts finding ways to expel our atheletes out of China. We should have learned by now to not under-estimate China’s ability to crack down on protestors. We should have kept politics out of it and chose a person who is Chinese-American to represent our country so it could show our diversity to bring the games to them with one of their ex-citizens leading the way.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Crossing the line between sport and politics? He would be a great choice if the Olympics were in London, Tokyo, or Abu Dhabi. His success is a wonderful story and it makes me proud to be an American to see him succeed so wonderfully. He is living the American dream and his teammates have correctly chosen him to represent our nation.

Posted by tom | Report as abusive

The Chinese government’s hypocrisy will be exposed whether they like it or not. They have proved throughout this whole process that they are not willing to admit their injustice or move toward reform.

Posted by Peter S. | Report as abusive

It is absolutely the right choice. The only other better choice would be a Tibetian or maybe a Tiawianese to carry the US flag.

China is a corrupt COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP and here’s hoping the exposure from the Great Chinese Communist Olympic Games will cause the world to bring some pressure on the Chinese government to make some social changes.

Posted by Neal | Report as abusive

I support my country-China! Because I am Chinese! With 5000 years old history, China sacrifice the whole world too many things, including papers, powders and so on. Although my country has encountered ups and downs for too many times, this nation never say give-up and never will do that.
I’m proud to be a Chinese, and proud to live in China! With our efforts, I trully believe China will be the greatest country over the world!

Posted by Justin | Report as abusive

I understand why this man was chosen to carry the flag:to embarass China and make a subtle political statement. one thing though, was China a majoy player in Sudanese politics in early 1990s? no,the West was. is China the biggest player in Sudanese politics NOW? a resounding NO if you take a moment to analyze the numbers of investment, oil deals by different countries in Sudan.France, US are leading the league.

So, if this violence has been going on for decades when the West has been running things, and if China is a mojar but not biggest player in Sudanese politics, who should the western pulic and media outlets really blame for the mess?

Call me a brainwashed apologist, which I am not, but do show the decency of fair-play by pinpointing the mistakes and errors, if any, in my logic and reasoning.

Posted by Bluesville | Report as abusive

The guy epitimoses both the American dream and the Olympic spirit. Doesn’t that make him the perfect choice for such a symbolic role?

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

Its too much for my taste, Bluesville says Lomong “epitomises the American dream and the Olympic spirit”.

I’m just glad someone survived in one of the many nasty wars America has been involved in since 1945, turning many countries bad for a long time (like China 1945-75, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, Panama, Nicaragua, Sudan, Afganistan, Palestine, Lebanon and others).

Lomong shows it takes more than one generation to be able to get on with your life normally after the US military has ‘secured’ your neighborhood.

Posted by TheBigGame | Report as abusive

Best choice for athletes muzzled by their ambitions, their sponsors, and their teams. I’m pleased they did this. If China can’t get over herself with all this faux honor too bad.
“Politics” is not the same as funding a genocide my friend.

But if you want to take our outgoing president and his cronies and prosecute them, as we don’ t seem to be able to, feel free to give it a try.


Thanks for all the responses.
I should probably add that when I heard Lomong had been selected, my reaction was of excitement. Not for any political reason, but just because the story of the “Lost Boys” is so moving.
I covered the conflict in Sudan for Reuters in the late 1990s, and saw at first hand the misery it caused. So for one of these boys to carry the U.S. flag seems incredible.
I also just read Dave Eggers book “What is the What” which brought back a lot of memories of Sudan. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the Lost Boys.

Posted by Simon Denyer | Report as abusive


Posted by dudes | Report as abusive

What is wrong with Lomong representing the USA, that is his new adopted country and there is nothing political about it. He is a world citizen and can represent any country that gives him hope and chance in life, what did Bashir and his gang of butchers ever do for him, nothing but misery and war. Good luck to Lomong

Posted by Nduka Tolefe | Report as abusive

Interesting choice. Reading his story it doesn’t seem to conflict with politics on the surface as he left Sudan in the early 90s, but I’m sure people will be thinking about Sudan when he is announced. Regardless, is there any Chinese reaction to this besides people telling me what the Chinese think?

Posted by Kev Ricardo | Report as abusive

I find the question truly, utterly, deeply astonishing given the context. Lomong is a hero and survivor in every possible respect, and that’s the essence of America and Olympics in a nutshell. Each of us has stories of courage and heroism where we beat the odds in some way to shine a light and help make the world a better place. We believe in truth and justice and security and decency. If someone thinks any of those goals conflicts in any way with the Olympics or America or that honoring Lomong in this fashion could even be debated, I say they are so completely lost that they will never get it. In fact, this story is so awe inspiring that it’s arguably the most important story to ever come out of Olympics. The remarkable story and joy of Lomong — a U.S. citizen who narrowly escaped death at the hands of butchers — should be retold again and again generations!

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

“When militiamen swept into their villages on horseback in the early 1990s, shooting, burning and raping as they went, tens of thousands of young Sudanese boys were forced to flee for their lives.”

Militiamen? Not suprising that Reuters doesn’t have the guts to say that those “militiamen” where members of the “Religion of Peace”.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

Lopez Lomong is a good choice, a smack in the face to the Muslim murderers who are still running amok in the whole world including attempts to ruin these games. When will people realise that the “tribal” wars in Sudan are against Muslim terrorists against Christians and the religion of pieces is the cause of global disquiet and murder.


Perhaps the most hypocritical aspect of this story is that the “militiamen that swept into the villages” were in fact members of the southern Sudanese group the SPLA in search for conscripts/child solidiers to force into battle. But do any of these Holywood-activists-for-a-day want to talk about the fact that most of the so called “Lost Boys”-5000 of them to be exact-fled their own “defenders”; the SPLA? I don’t think so,]; not cinematic enough, since that would require a deeper analysis of Sudan and its problems.

Posted by Ben Freeman | Report as abusive

It’s a great choice. The war in South Sudan is only officially over. There are still clashes, mainly because of the oil. That’s why it is so important to honour a survivor. But at the moment the whole world is looking at the massacres in Dafur, all committed by racist Muslims who were the first ones to enslave black Africans, as the Koran explicitly sanctions slavery. I have a good friend from South Sudan who fled Sudan because “I’m black and I’m a Christian” – his own words. So good luck and all the best to Lopez Lomong. And hope that the Chinese will stop supporting that butcher Bashir.

Posted by Monika | Report as abusive

I believe it is the right thing to do. No one else seems to be doing anything except to study. At the least athletes are trying to do something about.

Posted by Kathy | Report as abusive

I don’t think you can separate politics from anything let alone sport. Those who try to separate the two are doing so for the convenience of the moment, perhaps for a diplomatic victory or some other such agenda. The Americans have chosen the Olympic occasion to make their position known without jeopardizing the games. Pres. Bush made a statement condemning the human rights record in China before going to Beijing. Its about making your position known and that should apply to anybody. Lomong is personally a happy man after getting the opportunity to have a meaningful life after the madness in Sudan (and other parts of Africa and the world).

Posted by Dereck Tafuma | Report as abusive

For those who doubted on America is the true world symbol of harmony, respect, equality for their citizen and that will keep them in power through out …. i don’t see anything wrong with Lomong to carry American flag with American citizen.

Posted by Ruben | Report as abusive

Al-Bashir is an African hero for sure, because you can feel he had became an African hero. Bashir he have been leading his people for a while in a better way. However, Bashir he’d better to build a nuclear plan for his country as well. Because westerns are looking for Oil, so they know how to blame a stable country, then to destroy for Oil purposes like Iraq. Westerns are looking for Oil again, and the only way they are blaming for Bashir is to get Oil from Sudan………..


How about picking an Iraqi to carry the flag?

That would expose the murder of 1 million people and the creation of 4 million refugees because of the greed for oil.

Oh, I forgot. It was not China that invaded Iraq but the USA. So, nobody to represent the “Lost Men, Women, and Children of Iraq.”

Heartless hypocrisy.

Posted by Vincent | Report as abusive

Of course Lopez Lomong should have been chosen he is an American, plain and simple. an added note regarding this blob, Justin and Vincent are idiots.

Posted by jja_American | Report as abusive

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