A marathon runner will be allowed to compete in the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games without being affiliated with a particular nation for the first time in history.
The International Olympics Committee will allow runner Guor Marial —who was born in the civil-war ravaged South Sudan—to participate in the games as an independent athlete. He will join the opening ceremonies on July 27 walking in the parade of athletes under the official Olympic flag (as seen above).
Marial—who now lives and trains in the United States—does not possess a passport and is not officially a citizen of the US, although citizenship is pending. He arrived in the United States as a teenager, fleeing the violence of the war-torn African nation. South Sudan gained independence last year after breaking away from the Sudan. It doesn't yet have a recognized Olympic body.
Marial was offered a spot on the Sudanese Olympic team, but he declined based on his principles. "I lost my family and relatives, and in South Sudan 2 million people died," he told Reuters news service.