Tripoli: Libya`s Olympic delegation has started to arrive in London in defiance of a kidnap believed to be an attempt to prevent the new national flag being raised at the 27 July opening ceremony.
Nabeel al-Alam, the president of the country`s Olympic committee, was kidnapped on Sunday by gunmen in Tripoli.
His colleagues fear he may have been seized by militia loyal to Muammar Gadaffi`s regime. They believe the timing of the kidnapping indicates his captors wanted to prevent Libyan athletes walking out in the Olympic Stadium under the red, black and green tricolour adopted by the transitional government to replace the previous green flag.
Dr Haffed Gritly, the head of the delegation, said: "We have convinced all our athletes to come here to London and we are going to send a strong message to the criminals that whatever they do, we are going to compete. We are going to parade with the new flag in London."
Libya`s five competitors, a marathon runner, a sprinter, a swimmer, a weightlifter and a judoka, are set to arrive at the athletes` village in London from Tripoli on Saturday.
Gritly said the Libyan Olympic committee had been boosted by a letter of support from the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge.
A spokesman for Rogge said he sent a message earlier this week expressing his concern about Alam`s disappearance and offering help. It is understood Rogge will maintain a low profile on the issue, however, because of the sensitivities around the ongoing kidnapping situation.
Speaking at the athletes` village, Gritly said some in the team were initially dissuaded from travelling to London following the kidnap, but were all happy to come following discussions. He said they now wanted to find a way to mark the kidnapping during the Olympic Games, not necessarily during the opening ceremony.
"We still have to go through the system and the rules to find a way of demonstrating our sympathy with our president," said Gritly.
BDST: 1441 HRS, July 20, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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