Sudanese refugee voted American flag bearer

Andy Lyons/Getty Images In a pointed gesture, the U.S. Olympic team has voted Lopez Lomong, a member of the track team who gained American citizenship in 2007 after fleeing Sudan and spending a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp, as its flag bearer for the opening ceremony in Beijing. Lomong was abducted at age six ...

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593455_080807_lomong5.jpg

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In a pointed gesture, the U.S. Olympic team has voted Lopez Lomong, a member of the track team who gained American citizenship in 2007 after fleeing Sudan and spending a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp, as its flag bearer for the opening ceremony in Beijing.

Lomong was abducted at age six by militiamen looking to recruit child soliders. He managed to escape with two other boys and was grabbed by Kenyan authorities after he unknowingly crossed the border. Lomong was one of the 4,000 "lost boys" of Sudan who were resettled in foster homes throughout the United States in 2001. Lomong is also currently a member of the Team Darfur activist group whose cofounder -- American speedskater and Turin gold medalist Joey Cheek -- had his visa revoked by Chinese authorities two days ago.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In a pointed gesture, the U.S. Olympic team has voted Lopez Lomong, a member of the track team who gained American citizenship in 2007 after fleeing Sudan and spending a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp, as its flag bearer for the opening ceremony in Beijing.

Lomong was abducted at age six by militiamen looking to recruit child soliders. He managed to escape with two other boys and was grabbed by Kenyan authorities after he unknowingly crossed the border. Lomong was one of the 4,000 “lost boys” of Sudan who were resettled in foster homes throughout the United States in 2001. Lomong is also currently a member of the Team Darfur activist group whose cofounder — American speedskater and Turin gold medalist Joey Cheek — had his visa revoked by Chinese authorities two days ago.

Lomong’s selection is certainly a touching gesture from his fellow athletes, and the Sudanese-American runner is ecstatic, saying that Friday will be “the happiest day” of his life. What effect it will have on U.S.-China relations is uncertain, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that China will not be able to hide from its Darfur policy simply by putting on the world’s biggest fireworks show and wowing foreign dignitaries.

I would be absolutely shocked if the Olympics pass without some sort of dramatic protest or political statement from an athlete or group of athletes, on a podium or elsewhere. One English basketball player, formerly with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic, has said that Olympians have an obligation to speak out against China.

It may not be 1968, but that doesn’t mean the gloves won’t come off.

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