The Sudanese Embassy in London on Friday denied that one of its Olympic runners had applied for asylum in the U.K.
“We herewith categorically refute allegations ... that a Sudanese member of those who qualified for the Olympic competition and have arrived in London is either missing (or) sought political asylum,” the Sudanese Embassy said in a statement.
The Embassy was closed and not accepting phone calls at the time of the release.
The man’s name was not disclosed but the British official said he was competing as an 800-meter runner. Only two Sudanese runners are competing at that distance: Abubaker Kadi and Ismail Ahmed Ismail, who is supposed to be his country’s flag bearer for Friday’s opening ceremony.
Ismail, a 28-year-old from Khartoum, is the only Sudanese medalist in Olympic history. He won a silver in the 800-meter at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Kadi is a 23-year-old from Elmuglad, Sudan.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Friday he knew of a reported asylum request but had not independently verified the details. “I know about the fact there has been a request but I don't know the decision of the government,” Rogge said.
A British Home Office spokeswoman refused to comment.
The mostly black African tribes in southern Sudan and the country’s mainly Arab north battled two civil wars over more than five decades. Some 2 million people died in the latest war from 1983-2005. The war came to a halt with a 2005 peace deal, which led to last year’s independence declaration for South Sudan.
Although the breakup was peaceful, hostilities flared this year between over several issues, including oil revenues and borders. Earlier this year, the United States warned that a humanitarian crisis was worsening in two states in Sudan where clashes were taking place, but the Sudanese government insisted the situation was “99 percent” normal.
Those areas, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, border the newly independent nation of South Sudan.
Both Sudanese states contain large groups that sided with the south during more than two decades of civil war, but the territories remained part of the north when the country was divided. Rebels from groups that still support South Sudan’s ruling party want to topple Sudan's government in the capital of Khartoum.