For some, just getting to the Olympics is a victory

(dpa) - Some countries competing in the Beijing Olympics have worked years to get here and for them, while no medals are in the picture, just being here makes them proud.

The Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, for example, are two small countries in the Pacific which are participating in the Olympics for the first time.

"For us, it's taken half a century to get here," said Anthony Muller, chef de mission for the Marshalls. "You have to be at all the regional, subregional and world tournaments."

His country's Olympic committee sent five athletes, while others, like Nauru, sent only one.

While some athletes are invited by the International Olympic Committee to participate because the IOC reserves spots in track and field and other sports for athletes from small countries who performed well in tournaments, others are here solely on merit - meaning they are among the best in the world.

Some of these athletes ranked among the top 10 in the Olympics while others came close to clinching medals - not small accomplishments considering that they are lucky to have an annual training budget of 100,000 dollars, compared to millions of dollars for big countries.

Dika Toua from Papua New Guinea took 8th place in the women's 53kg weightlifting competition while her countryman Ryan Pini made it to the finals in the 100 meter men's butterfly, swimming in the same pool as Michael Phelps and coming in 8th.

The pressure for athletes in small countries can be intense.

About half of the 180,000 population in Western Samoa was watching when Ele Opeloge, 22, was competing in the +75kg women's weightlifting category. She dropped the 150kg weights one second too early and improperly when she felt a sharp pain in her back. In the final rankings, she lost out by only one kilogram to the eventual bronze medal winner.

"It's one of those things. We had it, but we lost it," Opeloge said, looking disappointed and almost ashamed.

But following an outpouring of support from family, friends and fans, she added: "The main thing is to come here for the Games. It's a privilege to come here. Not just anyone can come to the Olympics."

For small countries, the biggest challenge is not lack of talent, but insufficient funding and support for domestic sports programmes, delegates said.

The government provides no funding in some countries, so they must rely on scholarships from the IOC or donations from local businesses.

The lack of or insufficient sports facilities is also hindering some athletes from training at the elite level.

"You have a lot of athletes who have potential but not facilities. We don't have track and field, we're currently running on grass fields," said Terry Sasser, secretary general of the Marshall Islands' National Olympic Committee.

This forces many athletes who do have the ambition to go to the Olympics to train for months or years overseas, away from their families.

Strengthening sports programmes will not only benefit Olympic athletes and aspirants, it will help youngsters in these countries, he and others said.

"Sports has an immediate impact on these countries. We can have a basketball court and crime immediately goes down," said Sasser.

Athletes in smaller countries often come from humble backgrounds.

"Most of the athletes we have, they work in their family's farms growing taro, coconuts, bananas and pineapples," said Sebastian Kolhase, chef de mission for Western Samoa, which sent six athletes to the Beijing Olympics.

"We as the sporting body raise funds for them, but they still have to contribute for uniforms and other expenses."

Some like taekwondo athlete Anju Jason from the Marshalls work full-time in a Chinese restaurant to support himself and pay for training.

Chinese sports fans in recent days launched a campaign online to show support for Iraqi athletes after one athlete told local media she risked her life to buy a pair of running shoes in a second hand market in Jordan, The Beijing News said.

Internet surfers donated their Olympic souvenirs, Chinese ornamental knots and other gifts to Iraq's athletes and coaches, the paper said.

One blogger was quoted by the paper saying: "We should award a gold medal to Iraq because they have shown the Olympic spirit. They are true champions."

Even athletes who did not come here on merit said the experience of competing with top athletes from around the world taught them a lot.

"If there are world championships, I want to compete; I want to push myself," said Hadley Kerson, a swimmer from the Federated States of Micronesia

Istanbulites to vote for new planning of historical Taksim Square
Istanbulites to vote for new planning of historical Taksim Square
Istanbul Airport receives ‘Chinese Friendly Airport’ certificate
Istanbul Airport receives ‘Chinese Friendly Airport’ certificate
Exports of knitwear from Georgia to Turkey down
Exports of knitwear from Georgia to Turkey down
Loading Bars
Pakistani Ambassador: Azerbaijan ably steered NAM in difficult times, provided leadership for developing countries
46-year-old enters Baku Higher Oil School
Moscow-Baku flights resumed (PHOTO)
Georgia reports 259 new COVID-19 cases
Uzbekistan increases cement production
Uzbekistan leads in foreign direct investment sector
Volume of currency sold at NIMA exchange rate in Iran climbs
Overhaul of Azerbaijani ‘Rasul Rza' dry-cargo ship completed (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers discusses budget-related issues (PHOTO)
Georgia increases import of tea from Azerbaijan
Nobel winners to get $110,000 raise as prize money increased
Corn production in Azerbaijan grows
Iraq oil minister expects deal to up oil exports
Oil falls as demand growth concerns outweigh U.S. stock drawdown
Trading at Iran Mercantile Exchange revealed
Turkmen Rysgal Bank introduces digitalization in payment system
Kazakh Gas Refinery to buy welding equipment via tender
Less than 10,000 getting COVID-19 each day
Georgian taxpayers to finance harvest for viticulturists
Armenian armed forces targetted Azerbaijan's important energy, transport infrastructure in July - MFA
Azerbaijan's Az-Granata talks export, production plans to be done by year-end
President Ilham Aliyev receives credentials of incoming Swedish ambassador (PHOTO)
Iranian currency rates for September 24
Iranian member of chamber: railway potential of Azerbaijan and Iran can maximize trade cooperation
Operating revenue of Fluxys Belgium up
Kazakhstan abolishes death penalty
Fluxys Belgium rolling out programs to further reduce methane emissions
Fluxys Belgium sees significant drop in investments
Azerbaijani currency rates for Sept. 24
Compensation of closed Azerbaijani banks ongoing
Saudis warn U.N. of oil spot in shipping lane near decaying Yemen tanker
Some European refiners may leave market
Armenians destroying ancient Albanian monuments of Azerbaijan - historian
Turkmenistan, USAID consider possibility of implementing number of joint projects
SOCAR Trading eyes to create global integrated oil products desk
Armenia violates ceasefire with Azerbaijan 69 times
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister leaves to Georgia for official visit
Uzbekistan reveals its COVID-19 data for September 24
Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb
Iran seeks to join its power network to Russia and Azerbaijan
Istanbulites to vote for new planning of historical Taksim Square
Peace, friendship hallmarks of Iranian, Japanese nations: MP
Vice Minister of Healthcare of Kazakhstan relieved of her duties
WeWork sells control of China unit; says unit got $200 million in funding
Kazakhstan’s AIX taking measures to develop local mining companies
Kazakhstan to open General Consulate in Samarqand
Istanbul Airport receives ‘Chinese Friendly Airport’ certificate
US Ambassador Degnan says Georgia’s parliamentary elections should be fair, transparent, free
Zarif arrived in Moscow
Canada will spend big to combat coronavirus, saying now is 'not the time for austerity'
Chilean capital's metro in full operation after damage from social unrest
Brazil's COVID-19 death toll nears 139,000
3 policemen, 4 prisoners dead in foiled jailbreak attempt in Egypt
Saudi king stresses continuous efforts to promote global COVID-19 response
Egyptian FM heads to Jordan for quartet Arab-EU meeting on Palestinian cause
Belgium to relax face mask rules
Finland, Norway and Sweden announce wider military cooperation
Singapore to permit more people back to workplace in easing COVID-19 control measures
Money transfers from Azerbaijan to Russia down in 2Q2020
Vaezi: Legal proceedings underway to receive South Korea's debts
Turkmenistan to help Afghanistan complete railway to Tajikistan border
Exports of knitwear from Georgia to Turkey down
Kazakhstan raises chemicals import from Turkey
Mali risks 'economic paralysis' from post-coup embargo: trade group
New residents in Azerbaijan’s Balakhani Industrial Park
Georgia slightly ups import of grain, legumes from Turkey
Iran, Russia seeking to expand scientific cooperation
Italy's goods export to Kazakhstan down twofold
Anglo Asian Mining increases payments to shareholders
Uzbekistan slightly reduces imports of leather goods from Turkey
Get rewarded with Azercell!
Chairman of Public Organization of Udi people thanks Azerbaijan
Agricultural production up in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan
Iran's plan to develop paddy fields fails, farmers demand compensation
Iranian trucks carrying tomatoes stuck at Pakistani border
Saudi Arabia explores wind potential in Uzbekistan
Azerbaijan to purchase COVID-19 vaccine
Iran to develop power cooperation with Afghanistan
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale September 26
IranAir to resume flights to Germany after several months
Volume of cargo movement through Azerbaijani ports increases
Iran discloses volume of wheat purchased in Ardabil Province
Energy Community: 2020 - remarkable year in terms of Georgia's ability to continue on its reform path
Iran to announce decisive decisions on combating COVID-19
Kazakhstan taking measures to increase railway border stations capacities
Tesla expects approval for battery cells plant in Berlin
UK Brexit border delays 'likely to worsen' in January
Georgia sees decrease in car re-exports
Import of Turkish clothes by Iran plunges
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise
Parliament speaker: Azerbaijani people to never allow creation of second Armenian state on their territory (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan confirms 173 more COVID-19 recoveries
Oil accounts for major part of exports from Azerbaijan to Croatia, says ministry
Volume of gas consumption in Iran revealed
Austrian OMV oil company to start gas exploration in Georgia
EAEU countries increase export of dairy products to Turkmenistan
Kazakhstan’s Oil Construction Company to buy pipes via tender
All activities for Ionian Adriatic Pipeline postponed: Croatian Ministry
Turkey's clothes export to Uzbekistan slumps
Russia eyes to build nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan
All news