Bush Lauds Afghan, Iraqi Olympic Teams

The war on terrorism is transforming the complexion of the Olympic games in Athens with the rise of teams from Iraq (search) and Afghanistan (search), President Bush says.

Afghanistan was suspended from the International Olympic Committee (search) in 1999 due to the Taliban ban on participation of women athletes.

Saddam Hussein put his son Uday in charge of Iraq's Olympic committee, a step that allegedly led to torture of athletes who did not do well. Iraq is the only Olympic committee in the world with its own prison, a former U.S. diplomat has said of Saddam's regime.

"For the first time in history, people everywhere will see women competitors wearing the uniform of Afghanistan," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

"For the first time in decades, the world will see Iraqi Olympians free from the brutal punishment of the dictator's son," Bush added.

Twenty-nine athletes from Iraq are competing in Athens, including the Iraqi soccer team, which thrilled the world by winning its first game, the president noted.

The country whose team Iraq defeated is Portugal, which has sent 120 police officers to Iraq.

"By coming together in friendly competition, all Olympians are sending the message that freedom and hope are more powerful than terror and despair," said the president.

Bush said one woman on the Iraqi track team declared that she wants to represent her country because someone who represents only herself has accomplished nothing.

In his campaign speeches around the country in recent weeks, Bush has said how gratifying it was to see Afghan girls participating in this summer's international children's games in Cleveland. He made the same point about Afghan women's participation in the Olympics.

"At the opening ceremony, Team USA marched alongside men and women from Afghanistan and Iraq, nations that four years ago knew only tyranny and repression," said Bush.