South Sudanese refugee Guor Marial got some news a little more than a week ago that only a gifted athlete with the will to compete would think is awesome — the International Olympic Committee would let him run 26.2 miles as an independent participant under the Olympic flag. That's, you know, cool if you like to run, but my lungs are starting to quiver with nightmarish memories from high school cross country (junior varsity — jealous much?).
On July 21st, the IOC informed Marial that he could compete in the Olympic marathon even though he doesn't technically have a country to represent. Though he was all set to run for U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A. (where he'd been training), Marial's road to citizenship was blocked by a protracted security background check because bureaucracy, ladies and gentlemen, is the root of all evil in the world. Marial was born in what has become South Sudan, a country he'd love to represent officially in London except for one minor bureaucratic obstacle — South Sudan officially became a country very recently, and so doesn't have a National Olympic Committee, an IOC requirement for any country wishing to compete in the games.
A change.org petition to let Marial run as an independent (there is a precedent for it — the IOC recently granted independent status to athletes from the Netherlands Antilles after its NOC was dissolved) garnered more than 3,500 signatures and helped sway the IOC. Marial, who's already trained pretty hard for this, was understandably thrilled. "The voice of South Sudan has been heard," Marial said to the AP. "The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there." Jeez, distance running is really compelling. More compelling when you can watched dramatized versions of it rather than an entire, monotonous marathon, but still.