Iraqi Olympic Team to be Chiswick Based

Tax surcharge may be needed to meet security costs

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Chiswick is set to welcome the courgeous athletes of Iraq when they come to compete in the 2012 Olympics. As part of a scheme to encourage greater interest in the event the teams from individual countries are to be based in various parts of London. The expectation is that the area will then become supporters of that country's competitors and will attract local people to less popular sports.

Every competing nation is to be invited to base themselves in a particular area and because of security considerations the Iraqi team was one of the first to be allocated. The American team are going to be based in Birmingham. It is thought likely that the Polish team will be based in Ealing and the Austrailians will be using the Linford Christie stadium for training purposes.

Iraqi Ambassador, His Excellency Kanbel Ivuvelfureet, said that the idea of basing the team in Chiswick came from none other than Ken Livingstone. He told the Ambassador that he often received letters and e-mails from the residents of the area on subjects such as Turnham Green tube and the West London Tram and he thought there was no more suitable area to host the Iraqi team than Chiswick.

The Iraqis anticipate having about 60 or 70 athletes at the event as well as 100 officials and protection officers. They are historically strong in Graeco-Roman wrestling, boxing and anticipate challenging for medals in the shooting events. The football team were finalists at last year's Asian games and the country will be hoping to make a big impact in that event. There are also plans to enter a team in the beach volley ball event although it is unlikely that the Iraqis will be as scantily clad as the Brazilian team.

The suggestion at this stage is that the team will be billeted at Chiswick Community School and will be primarily based at the University of Westminster sports ground but will also have access to other facilities in the area such as the Civil Service Sports Club and the Esporta Riverside if this has been rebuilt by that time.

Although it is difficult to predict the political situation that will prevail at the time of the Olympics it is possible that the presence of the Iraqi team may require an extensive security effort. Iraqi athletes have often been on the receiving end of attacks from Islamist terrorists who disapprove of participation in events like the Olympics.

Amadán Aibreáin, spokesperson for Hounslow Council, said that the expectation was that the host towns would be expected to meet the costs incurred as a result of the visit. This is likely to require a local tax surcharge of some variety as the bill is expected to run to several millions. One option being considered for raising revenue to cover these costs is a premium on existing parking and parking permit charges in the Chiswick area which would be introduced in 2008.

April 1st, 2007