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The youngest country in the world

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Omar Omar | 10:05 UK time, Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Few days ago i tried to write a story about the Olympics.

I keep talking about that topic, but somehow this time is different. This story comes straight from my daily diary, and it's something that really happen to me during the Olympic marathon. it's my best souvenir from my weeks in London. I decided to share it with you, I hope you will like it.

Sunday, august 12, 2012
Today it has been a very special day.
Today I've been to the men marathon. I agreed with my mates to meet under the big ben, but I woke up too late, and when I got there I couldn't be able to find them among the crowd, so I waited alone to see the runners. Well, actually I was anything but alone, the street was lined with thousands of people. It was a path of about 10 Km, so they had to do four laps to complete the race.

First lap. A lot of runners coming towards me in a big group, I looked them run past, they were so skinned, lightweight, everyone carried a number, a name, and colors of his country. Some of those countries reminded me of very sad stories, countries that I only know because of wars, or famine, or big tragedy such as genocide. Ruanda, for example. I imagined that it was like they were running despite everything, they were running to earn a better life for them, and their country. Looking at them, I already felt touched and tears clouded my eyes.

Olympic marathon runners

Second lap. Best runners were already ahead of the competition, most of them were from Kenya. The last three runners were from three small countries: one from Andorra, that is a very little country between spain and france, one from Liechtenstein (a tiny principality between Switzerland and Austria) and the last one from Timor Est, another country which reminded me of people full of suffering, so I loved that last runner of the race and I got excited once more.

Before those three last guys, in the middle of the group, there was this boy, Marial, with a very dark skin and no name of country on his breastplate. There was just a name, Marial, that occurred to me to think that he could have been from South Sudan.
All I know about The Republic of South Sudan, apart from what I learned from the tv news, comes from a book from David Eggers, whose title is What is the what, a book that I recommend to everyone. It's about the fearful journey of thousands of kids, without any adult, from Sudan to Ethiopia, trying to get away from a country wrecked and ravaged by the war that the north of Sudan moved to the south part of the country. During the war, more than 2.5 milion people have been killed, and 5 milions people have become displaced in other countries, becoming refugees.

South Sudan declared independency in 2011, as a result of a referendum, with 99% of the population voting for independence. It's the youngest country in the world, and the poorest.

Waiting for the next lap, I checked on my phone, and I found out that the Marial boy was actually a South Sudanese runner, named Guor Marial that had twentyeight members of his family killed during the conflict. He now lives in the USA but with no US citizenship, that's why he couldn't run under the USA flag. He couldn't neither run as a south Sudanese athlete, because South Sudan is not a member of the Olympic committee yet, so he was given the possibility to compete under the Olympic flag, without representing any country. Reading these news, left me even more quavery than before
From that moment on, I standed for that boy, Guor Marial, I standed for South Sudan in the Olympic marathon. I thought I probably was the only one.

Last lap: I looked the athletes running for medals passing by, the I looked for Guor Marial passage, and I finally waited till the passage of the last athlete (the very last was the boy from Timor Est, I waited forty minutes just for him).

After that I left and I was on my way towards home, wondering about which lesson I could draw from that experience, while I run into a group of beautiful, colorful women that were singing and dancing waving flags I never saw.

Women celebrating

I asked them which country they were from, and they told me they were celebrating the first south Sudanese athlete at the Olympic games. They were singing and dancing to celebrate their country, the South Sudan, the youngest country in the world. They waved their flags, they wore t-shirts saying Let us built our country, let us build South Sudan, they were really joyful.

I walked beside them for a while, staring at them, but that was too much to bear for me.
I really started to cry, seeing their happiness, thinking about how much pain every woman I was looking at had probably suffered, thinking about the fact there was only one man among them, I cried so much that they began to come to me to ask me why I was so upset, and when I told them the reason. When I told them I just was too happy for them all, they told me not to cry anymore, because, they said, "we already cried enough".

That obviously didn't prevent me from crying again, and eventually I had to get away from them, from their hugs and eyes, because I felt that otherwise I couldn't have stopped shedding tears like a child.

Long live the Olympics,
And Long live South Sudan, the world's youngest country!


  • Comment number 1.

    Very excellent essay! Thank you Omar!

  • Comment number 2.

    I hope some day you can visit Viet nam, my country, to have another wonderful essay! hero hung :))

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Omar,

    you're not just excellent at English writing: you're even a talented story teller.
    You are the gift to make the reader feel as if he really living the event you are talking about. Congratulations !
    Have you ever thought of publishing a novel ? I 'm sure it might be a big success.
    Of course!

    Coming back to your today blog, please , believe me, I was really moved by its content, while reading.
    We - I mean all the west world people- too often forget how much we are lucky living in an independent and democratic country. In other words we don't take care enough freedom we have.
    The colourful celebration of South Sudan people should remind us that this value is not granted worldwide.
    Waiting for next post.


  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Omar!

    It’s a very touching story. I’ve watched the marathon on TV and of course I was deprived of those strong emotions that fans in London could feel. Nevertheless you described your impressions so vividly that I could imagine the atmosphere. Besides I learnt many facts about the South Sudan from your story. And I think your English is so good that you don’t have to fret about it while speaking with your foreign colleagues.
    Returning to the Olympics I think that the marathon is one of the most exciting competitions. Athletes are on the threshold of exhaustion but they show strength of character and display courage and desire to win. They give us unforgettable experience.
    In two years we take over the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I hope it will be a real fest for fans.

    Greetings from Russia

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello Omar,

    you wrote an excellent story again. I had strong feelings too when I read your story. I really hope that South Sudanese will enjoy the peace and I hope they can build a good democracy for their country.

    I agree with Andy4. We are very lucky because we live in a land of free democracy. We have a free press and freedom of speech. I hope someday all the people in the world will enjoy this benefit.

    For me it's almost impossible to understand why some countries don't want freedom for people and why people don't fight for this freedom. It's impossible to understand.

    Anyway I hope peace and love for everyone in this globe.


    - Ompputhecat -

  • Comment number 6.

    It's a great story, it give us a different and interesting way to see the olympics.
    I've started to learn english and I've found this great blog. I hope learn too much and meet new people from other countries with different languages.

    greetings from México

  • Comment number 7.

    Thank you Hung, and sure, I would love to come to vietnam someday!

  • Comment number 8.

    Andy 4, thank you for your words, I assure you that i'm not so easy to emotion, but that day i was really shaked.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Tatiana, thank you, and hope that olympics in sochi will be great. i'm not so fond of winter sports, but there are a lot of competitions that I enjoy even in winter games, such as biathlon, or short track. and, besides all, it's always the olympics!

  • Comment number 10.

    Excellent Omar,

    I am amazed by your story, it is so touching. You have a perfect story writing skills. I am wondering whether you write stories in your own language or English, if so, did it ever get published? I am just curious to know because you are so good.

    You explained your experience at the Olympics so well that I now regret watching it. Though I watched bits here and there but did not fully follow it . To be honest, I always feel sorry for the losing side and sometimes I avoid watching such competitive games. Now that you explained your experience so vividly, I regret watching it. Anyway, I will have to wait for four years to watch it next time hopefully.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Comment number 11.

    Hello Omar and all,

    I would like to congratulate you for your excellent English, and to thank you for your heartful sympathy towards the weak and the poor. Your accurarte description of the marathon made me follow the event as if I were on the spot. The story of the representatives of South Sudan and of other poor African countries is actually heartbreaking.

    I can tell you, however, that African athletes who participate in the olympics as well as in other world sporting competitions do not constitute a representative sample of African populations. These athletes are a minority. They are the most privileged ones whose parents earn enough to provide for their needs especially food and exercise. The majority of people in Africa suffer from hunger, malnutrition, diseases, illeteracy, insecurity, wars, etc.

    This is why I suggest that part of the income of all sporting competitions, wherever they take place, should be destined to the fight against hunger, illeteracy, insecurity, and other misfortunes in the poor countries all over the world.

    All the best,

    Elmansour, from Morocco

  • Comment number 12.

    I am sorry to write this kind of thinks at here but there are some countries have two faces. Those countries seems very democratic and humanist but at the other hand I see they act as a monster.

    I hope someday peace come all over the world

    I think it never comes

    Maybe at the paradise

    see you

    Ali from Turkey

  • Comment number 13.

    A very touching incident, beautifully written Omar!
    It surely made me aware of many things happening around the world. Thank you for enlightening us.

    Even I had watched the marathon, because the contestant from our nation was from my town and it was a fabulous feeling watching him. Even though he finished tenth, he was given a hero's welcome. As such occasions just come once in a blue moon in our cricket frenzy nation, India.

    There are a lot of issues the under-developed and developing nations are facing. Corrupt government, poor infrastructure and improper utilization of available resources are to blamed.

    Let us try our best to alleviate their sufferings.

    Sumayya, India

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Omar, I loved your story, if you one day write a book take for sure I am going to buy it.
    See you later.

  • Comment number 15.

    thanks for your excellent essay, Omar. It's been a long since i read such a good essay like yours. You know, it completely moves me to tears and brings me into where you have been. what's more, your writing skill is extremely vivid and tactful from which i learn a lot.
    looking forward to your next writing.

  • Comment number 16.

    Dear Omar,
    I would be very happy to welcome you in Vietnam and to make friend with you as well.
    To the moderator: Please send to only Omar my email: [Personal details removed by Moderator]. Thank you so much!

  • Comment number 17.

    Congratulations Omar for your English and thanks for giving me an emotion. What people need the most in Western country, emotions.
    Congratulations also for how you told the magic of Olympics, a competition where winners are exalted but where every competitors can find its little victory and rejoice of it, a metaphor of life.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank you Omar, it was a really touching piece of writing. I think you have an eye to see where real stories are taking place.

  • Comment number 19.

    You made me post comment, Omar. You're good writer, wonderful storyteller. It was so touchful that I forgot It's for learning English! Your post gave me a valuable lesson more than a language skill. It was a complete piece of story. I really mean it. I don't know what you do, but I would rush to bookstore if you published your book. Thank you for your post. I'll keep my eye on your story :)

    Best regards, from South Korea

  • Comment number 20.

    Hello Ompputhecat, I'm glad you enjoyed this story, and what you wish is my wish too.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hello PedroParamo, and Welcome to BBC LE!

  • Comment number 22.

    i also always feel sorry for the losing side but that's not a reason to avoid watching competitive games, it's quite the reverse, because for every competition there is a losing side to stand for! :-)

  • Comment number 23.

    Hello Elmansour,
    thank you for commenting. regarding your proposal, i can add that not only sport competitions should help those causes, but every public evente.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dear Ali, your point is a little bit out of topic, the only thing i can say is that I'm waiting the day in which also for palestinian people there will be peace in their own land.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hello Sumayya and thank you for your words. I thinlk I remember the indian guy! i remember i thought "that's strange i don't usually see any indian in any olympic competition!" maybe is for the cricket thing, although i think there are also many other reasons.

  • Comment number 26.

    To Tenocht, Honeysuckle, Alex, Mauverick and Liu, thank you all for appreciating my story! to whom asked me if i already wrote or published something, i just used to write a blog some years ago (i closed it in 2008) and i only published a little book of questions about the eighties, but i do something else for a living, i'm an environmental consultant.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hello Hung, and thank you! i'm going to ask your email to BBC LE, i hope they will give it to me!

  • Comment number 28.

    Omar, congratulations! Your blog is really great, very inspirational. I like the way you learn English, but also the way you look at things. Thanks for the comments on the marathon and thanks for waiting for the boy from East Timor! It reminded me an old Polish documentary related to one of the International Peace Cyclist Races which was entitled: The bus with caption 'End'. It was about the very young cyclist who despite the terrible wheather kept going as the last one and was strong enough to get rid of the temptation to get into that bus which was driving just behind him. He was very calm and determined to finish the race, as if he knew that "a loser is not one who runs last in the race. It is the one who sits and watches, and has never tried to run." (Pistorius's mother words).

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi Omar,

    Reading your blog, I fill that you are good and sensitive man! Your stories are very interesting and fascinating. I’m not good with my English to express all what I wish to say to you. But I’m really happy to read your blog! You have a talent to be a writer and to be interesting for the people from the different parts of the world. It is nice for me to improve my English with your kind blog!

    With best wishes you and your family.
    Svetlana (Ukraine)

  • Comment number 30.

    Dear Omar,

    I am glad to read your touched story.Thank you very much



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