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Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Ex-Greek champ became Palestinian citizen this year

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- A Greek javelin thrower cannot compete with the Palestinian Olympic team because she did not meet the qualifying standard, Athletics' world governing board said Tuesday.

Sofia Sakorafa, a 48-year-old former javelin champion, stirred controversy when she became a Palestinian citizen this year and applied at the last minute for a berth on the Olympic team.

IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai told The Associated Press that he informed the Palestinians that Sakorafa's recent throws were well below the minimum standards.

Palestinian officials and Sakorafa called a news conference in which they criticized Olympic officials, calling the decision a pretext and questioning the officials' motives.

"The invocation of a procedural discrepancy is due either to ignorance or expediency," Sakorafa said, proudly displaying her Palestinian passport, which is signed by Yasser Arafat.

Later, she said on private Mega television: "This was a symbolic gesture to show my support for the Palestinian people ... I will continue to support them."

Gyulai said the decision was based solely on sports.

"The Olympic Games are not for political demonstrations," he said.

Sakorafa participated in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as a member of the Greek team and broke the women's world javelin record at the 1982 European championships. Then she dropped the sport, becoming a mother and a politician.